Royal Society of Portrait Painters exhibition

Michael's portrait of Paul Beckett, amateur heavyweight boxer, committed Manx lawyer, qualified masseur and tattooed man with an appetite for human rights issues was exhibited at this year's Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries 24th April-11th May 2008.

John Sitwell (PA)
John Sitwell (PA)

The portrait was first discussed in 2004, originally for Beckett’s 50th birthday in October 2006. In the event, Paul said, “light levels in a Manx autumn being what they are, we decided to postpone the work until last July. I sat for 30 hours, staring into a mirror in my wife’s gym at our home, listening to late Beethoven, Schubert and Messiaen. Michael played the same music when he returned to his home in Dorset to complete the work.”

Is Beckett pleased with the end result? “Certainly,” he says, without hesitation. “The portrait is in reflection, and layered with partly hidden meanings. The experience of staring at my own image for such a length of time was utterly cathartic.” Or, as he says about the image on his left thigh: “This is a Japanese Kabuki Theatre image from 1752 – the actor is taking off his costume armour, no longer the warrior but the man within. So too myself, as the lawyer becomes Paul at the end of each working day.”


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