Film director Wes Anderson approached me in 2012 to paint a fictional Renaissance portrait to be titled 'Boy with Apple' for his next film The Grand Budapest Hotel. The plot pivots around the theft and recovery of a priceless portrait by Renaissance master Johannes Van Hoytl. Intrigued by the script and surprised to hear that he intended to commission a real portrait, I decided to come onboard. For inspiration Wes bombarded me with a bewildering selection of images by Bronzino, 17th Century Dutch painters, Durers, all kinds of stuff, even some Tudor portraits. I found this terribly confusing at first until I realized that each image contained some required element that had to be worked into the painting. He clearly knew exactly what he wanted; it was just that nothing quite like it yet existed. It was an irresistible challenge.
Ed Munro, a stage school student, was cast as the sitter. Costumes were chosen and props hired (I provided the apple) and we started what was to be many weeks of work in Hanford School, a wonderfully atmospheric Jacobean manor house near my home in Dorset. Wes had very bravely left me alone to work on the painting for a couple of months, but as the start of filming approached we began the final work on it together. Collaborating on a picture was new territory to me, but his extraordinary attention to detail (“ the little bit of paper on the wall?…..yes, yes we must have the little bit of paper!”), good humoured patience and faith in his script somehow made it all come out right. The frame also needed to be attended to carefuly, so after discussing various style options with Wes, I took the picture to my framer Philip Elletson in Pewsey, and asked him to make a gessoed, gilded, and hand-painted antique frame. He did a truly wonderful job—using woodworm-riddled wood and antique brass rings.
I thoroughly enjoyed the finished film. It is funny, strange, rather dark, and it goes like a train from start to finish. I can heartily recommend it!
The Grand Budapest Hotel opened the Berlin Film Festival to very good reviews, and won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize. It will go on general release from 7th March .
A selection of my other paintings can be viewed in the works section of this site.
Robin L. Miller (Prop Master on The Grand Budapest Hotel) referring to 'Boy with Apple'
That was a jumping off point for Wes. I remember it was one of the first things he needed done, and he found an amazing artist and he basically commissioned this. It's exquisite in person, and Wes would keep it in his wonderful apartment. It was an inspiration to him I think.
Wes Anderson (Director of The Grand Budapest Hotel)
We found a wonderful English portrait painter named Michael Taylor who started from scratch and drew on all his powers.
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