News Column

Ken Livingstone: first painted portrait of former London mayor on display

July 4, 2014

Mark Brown (Guardian arts correspondent),

Wearing his London 2012 suit and tie, Ken Livingstone looks relaxed and serene in a new painted portrait going on display at the National Portrait Gallery.

And that is deliberate, said artist Andrew Tift. "One of the things Ken said to me during the sittings was that he always tried to appear calm during interviews and debates and never lost his cool.

"I wanted his pose to be calm, as if the viewer was in conservation with him and he was listening."

The portrait went on show for the first time on Thursday, in a room of its own just outside this year's BP Portrait Award exhibition.

Although there are photo portraits of the Labour politician and former mayor of London in the NPG - by Tom Miller,Stephen Hyde, and Michael Birt - this is the first painted portrait.

It was commissioned after Tift won the 2006 BP Portrait Award for his triptych of Kitty Godley, the artist Lucian Freud's first wife.

The large square painting shows Livingstone relaxing in his lush garden a setting chosen by the artist and sitter and reflecting Livingstone's fondness for gardening.

Tift first visited the politician in April 2011 and ended up taking more than 1,000 photographs to help create the final portrait.

"I liked the idea of setting him in his garden rather than against architectural symbols of London, which he is associated with," said Tift. The garden and house is "his little patch of London and I think he is very much perceived as a down-to-earth figure".

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Source: Guardian Web

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