Portrait of Melvyn Bragg by Conrad Atkinson

1 August - 30 September 2015

Conrad Atkinson's portrait of fellow Cumbrian Melvyn Bragg, broadcaster and novelist goes on display at Abbot Hall.

Conrad Atkinson was born in Cumbria in 1940 and gained degrees from Carlisle College of Art, Liverpool College of Art and the Royal Academy schools. He has received international recognition for his innovative art including portraiture. Atkinson always says that he finds portraits difficult and confesses that he hopes to be somewhere else when the subject sees the finished piece. Luckily both Melvyn and his partner Cate Haste (the biographer of Sheila Fell and Craigie Aitchison) like it very much and will hang it in their Hampstead house. Cate's reaction to the portrait was "I think it's fabulous. What a brilliant concept!" and Melvyn thinks it’s "terrific, I love the detail and yet it has that over all simple line which makes it so classical."

Conrad Atkinson and Melvyn Bragg have been friends for many years and are both 75 this year.  "I thought now is a good time" says Atkinson, "I admire Melvyn he’s a polymath and great writer and the portrait concentrates on two areas of his work…his novels and the town of Wigton."

The portrait is essentially a bricolage containing a number of elements around Melvyn’s life such as the sign from the pub, called The Blackamoor which his parents ran when he was young, elements from the town of Wigton such as Moore’s Monument, an image of the Maid of Buttermere, scenes from the Lake District, and a self portrait of Rembrandt one of Melvyn’s favourite works of art. There are also a number of words inscribed within the image including a nod to a comment he made when asked about the greatest achievements of civilization to which Bragg replied "the English language".

"It is of course intensely concentrated and busy rather than a traditional portrait. In one sense it can be seen as a critique of English realism (Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Augustus John, for example) although Atkinson thinks it is essentially Cumbrian and English."

"The longer I spend in San Francisco the more English my works are when I return to the UK. Occasionally I think the classic English art form is the documentary… from Hogarth, Dickens, Target for Tonight The Night Train even fictional programs such as House of Cards and Life on Mars. etc etc.," said Atkinson.

Supporting Event

Evening Talk
Art and Context: Conrad Atkinson
Wednesday 19 August, 6.30pm

Join Conrad Atkinson for this special talk to coincide with the display. £10/7, booking essential. Read more and book online

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