Tuesday, November 24, 2009

If you really must have one ...

There are folk out there with portraits of Margaret Thatcher on their walls. Iain Dale tellingly admits to being one such.

Malcolm feels a projectile vomit coming on at just the notion. Though, attached to a dartboard, it might serve ...

That said (and it would be better if Malcolm hadn't) yesterday's do at Number Ten produced something better than the usual.

For once, here is a portrait that has some artistic merit. Richard Stone has given the old bat some dignity, uncharacteristic but better than the artificial grandeur she assumed in real life. You call it steeliness if you want to, but Malcolm finds chilling contempt and a hint of the vulpine in those arrogant hooded eyes.

If one was expecting an image of the millionaire's trophy wife, augustly coiffed, jewels agleam, this is it indeed.

Nineteen years (and a day) since that joyous moment -- joyous until we appreciated what had been installed as her pale substitute -- when her own Party defenestrated her from Downing Street, she's back. Apparently, hers is unique there, in being a portrait of a living ex-PM; and only one of three portraits of Twentieth Century premiers (the other two, inevitably, being David Lloyd-George and Churchill. What is it about the Anglo-Saxons that they just lurve conflict and bloodshed?

Stone gives us an anodyne Thatcher, all glammed up, all passion spent. It may look good on a wall; but it denies the essential energy, complexity and wrongheadedness of the woman.

For something more acerbic, there is the Jonathan Yeo portrait of Blair (above left), complete with symbolic (and pointed) poppy against an indeterminate grey-blue background. Where Stone's Thatcher celebrates, Yeo's Blair challenges and forces the viewer's deliberation.

It presently hangs at the top of the stairs into the Great Hall of Lincoln's Inn. Within the Hall, Thatcher is there too: one of the sixteen Members of the Inn who rose to PM.

Which left Malcolm futilely trying to recall a decent painting of Clem Attlee. Several excellent photographs, yes. A full-length statue at Limehouse Library. But not a portait came to mind. It took a bit of a search, until one (by James Gunn, right) showed up to accompany Clem's piece in the Dictionary of National Biography. Hmm ... Sphere: Related Content

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