Warden Portrait Unveiled

Warden portrait unveiling

Warden Portrait Unveiled

31 October 2017

The College recently celebrated the unveiling of the official College portrait of Professor Margaret MacMillan, our Fifth Warden (2007-2017). The unveiling was carried out with University Chancellor, the Lord Chris Patten, who also gave the keynote address. Current Warden, Professor Roger Goodman, also spoke at the ceremony; together with the artist, Benjamin Sullivan. Sullivan gave an insight into Professor MacMillan as a subject, and the allusions and nuances of the piece.

The ceremony brought together members and friends of the Antonian community, and celebrated the legacy of Professor MacMillan's Wardenship.

The portrait will hang in the Senior Common Room, alongside that of First Warden Sir William Deakin, and Fourth Warden Sir Marrack Goulding.

Further images, video and details about the portrait will be available soon. 

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Update: Artist Benjamin Sullivan describes the thoughts behind his work, in a speech he gave at the unveiling:

'I’m often asked to take on commissions for heads of colleges and institutions​

St Antony’s, it was clear had a reputation for being a very different place from other colleges, this was apparent from even a brief visit. I thought the painting should reflect the College.

So, when I first met Margaret, we viewed a variety of rooms where the portrait might be set. And this seminar room, at the top of the Gateway building, stood out.

It would give the composition a bold structure. It would add a contemporary feel to the painting. It had views onto other parts of the college showing the mix of architecture.

So, I was pleased with this as a setting but it did off some challenges for an artist. Artists do like good natural light, but as it was from so many angles in this case, it could be challenging. The effect of having an outside view means that a good proportion of what’s inside will be appear to be in shadow in contrast.. This means less firm features than in the actual portrait, for an artist to show likeness. A famous example of this might be Vermeer's ‘Lady with a Red Hat’ or the self-portrait of the artist in Lucien Freud's early work, ‘Reflection.’ A softer image the result. But a softer image has great benefits in the gentle gradation of colour and tone

The sittings started in early May and continued on and off until June. I try to be non-prescriptive. Margaret sat as she chose, wore what she chose. Gaze directed at the viewer which I think s shows strength of character and desire to engage. At other times Margaret was able to look out of the window over my shoulder onto the other side of Woodstock road. What time the students curtains opened varied - often at lunchtime, but earlier and earlier as the term went on.

The composition is dominated by the bold architectural elements of the room, framing two separate areas of interest in the background. The area on the right reminded me of the paintings of ex-Royal Academician, Brendan Neiland, famous for reflections city scapes in office blocks. The area on the left shows the elegant Victorian townhouse on Winchester road or Church Walk, and the less famous view of Zaha Hadid's recent building which I moved 20 yards or so. 

The background was painted mostly after the actual sittings in August, and I loved how the balcony had become this huge wild meadow suspended in the air – a sense that you’re not sure if you’re inside or out. Which I assume was the point of it..

So all this brought together made for a rather busy painting already, so I was pleased not to have to bring in any of the portrait painters tropes.