A new portrait of Sir Martin Evans by prize-winning artist David Cobley has gone on display at the National Portrait Gallery
. Sir Martin was the first scientist to identify embryonic stem cells which have applications in virtually all areas of biomedicine, from basic research to the development of new therapies.
The portrait, depicting Sir Martin examining cultures in a Petri dish, was painted following five visits by the artist to the sitters home and Cardiff University. During these visits Cobley worked up sketches in pencil and oil and took numerous photographs. He encouraged Sir Martin to go into detail about stem cell research and was invited to his investiture as the new president of Cardiff University. The portrait on display, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, emphasises the groundbreaking discovery made by Sir Martin in 1980; the writing in the background of the portrait is a replica of a page of Sir Martins notebook on the culture of embryonic stem cells. Cobley was keen to show Sir Martins gentleness and curiosity, while creating a dynamic composition that illustrates a key moment of scientific discovery.
Sir Martin graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1963 and obtained his PhD from University College London in 1969 where he then lectured from 1969 to 1977. He joined the Department of Genetics at Cambridge University in 1978 and in July 1981 Sir Martin, together with Matthew Kaufman, published the discovery of how to culture embryonic stem cells. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1993 he was awarded the prestigious Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in the US in 2001 and was knighted in 2004 for his services to medical science. In 2007, along with Professor Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah and Professor Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his groundbreaking discoveries concerning embryonic stem cells. In 2009 Evans was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Medicine in recognition of his valuable contribution to medicine. Professor of Mammalian Genetics and Director of the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University from 19992007, Sir Martin was invested as President of Cardiff University last year.
David Cobley (b.1954) studied at Liverpool and Northampton schools of art. A member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and their Honorary Secretary for four years, he has shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and was a finalist in the John Player Award (1989) and the BP Portrait Award (1997). He was shortlisted for the Holburne Portrait Prize in 2004 for his portrait of Ken Dodd, now part of the National Portrait Gallery's Collection. In 1996 he established Bath Artists Studios and as one of its Trustees is committed to seeing it become a fully established Arts Centre for Bath.
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London says: This is an important new portrait of a very significant figure. I am delighted that David Cobley has created such a compelling portrait.