A new portrait of Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh, who has helped transform the lives of young people in inner-city London, goes on display at the National Portrait Gallery
for the first time today. The portrait of Batmanghelidjh, the Iranian-born psychotherapist and social reformer, is the work of artist Dean Marsh, and was commissioned as part of the First Prize for his winning the BP Portrait Award competition at the Gallery in 2005.
Dean Marsh was drawn to the sitter's distinctive dress style and found inspiration in the portraits of the nineteenth-century French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The sitter hopes that this portrait will encourage children to follow their dreams, 'no matter what the struggle.'
Camila Batmanghelidjh is the founder of the charity Kids Company which provides practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children and young people. The charity reaches 12,000 children a year and has raised £40 million since its beginnings in a disused railway arch in Camberwell, south London in 1996. Also founder of The Place 2 Be, a charity that offers school-based counselling services, Batmanghelidjh considers herself very privileged to be working with children whom she describes as extraordinarily courageous and dignified.
Dean Marsh (b.1968) is a London-based artist whose work Giulietta Coates won him the £25,000 first prize in the National Portrait Gallery's prestigious BP Portrait Award in 2005, and the commission to undertake a portrait of Camila Batmanghelidjh for the Gallery. He exhibited several times in the BP Portrait Award - in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2000. He won fourth prize in 2003 for Man with Grey Scarf and was commended in 2002 for his portrait of Wallace Collection director, Dame Rosalind Savill.
Camila Batmanghelidjh says: 'The hands are terrifyingly accurate, how could he do it? The face is aspirationally serious; I am waiting to occupy that expression. I can't take myself seriously enough for it yet! The fabrics are completely divine, lucky me to have been imagined in them. I hope my being on the walls of such a prestigious establishment and being painted by such a talented artist as Dean Marsh will serve to inspire children to follow their dreams no matter what the struggle. Everyday we are enriched by our ability to love. However, I never thought it would lead to my fat bottom on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery!'
Artist Dean Marsh says: 'It was a privilege to meet and paint somebody who has had such a positive effect on so many kids' lives.'
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: 'This delightful intricate portrait captures the inspirational figure of Camila Batmanghelidjh - it is a great BP commission.'
Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP, says: 'Dean Marsh's superb portrait shows perfectly how the BP Portrait Award not only encourages the continuing development of portraiture but also introduces important new artists to enrich the Gallery's permanent collection.'
This portrait joins other works in the National Portrait Gallery's Collection of commissions of BP Portrait Award winning artists including J K Rowling by Stuart Pearson Wright, (BP Portrait Award winner 2001), Sir Peter Mansfield by Stephen Shankland (winner 2004), Dame Cicely Saunders by Catherine Goodman (winner 2002), Fiona Shaw by Victoria Russell (winner 2000) and Sir Paul Smith by James Lloyd (winner 1997) and Dame Helen Mirren by Ishbel Myerscough (winner 1995).
Camila Batmanghelidjh by Dean Marsh is on display at the National Portrait Gallery's Contemporary Collections in the Lerner Galleries (Room 40)