By staff reporter
A NEW portrait of former British Prime Minister Tony Blaire depicts the former Prime Minister standing in front of a Northern Ireland mural which hangs in his home.
Blair, who has just turned 61, is portrayed informally in casual jeans and a polo shirt in the new portrait by Alastair Adams, president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, commissioned to paint the former premier by the National Portrait Gallery.
Besides the relaxed nature of its subject, the most striking element of the portrait is the painting behind it, by British war artist Ken Howard – Official War Artist to Northern Ireland in 1973, during the Troubles.
Mr Blair, who helped negotiate the NI peace process, is seen standing in front of a mural bearing the slogan ‘No Surrender’ and a Union flag and crown.
Also part of the mural is the image of a young child, partially obscured from view by Mr Blair, underneath the words ‘WAR child’ and ‘Provies rule ok’ – slang terminology for the Provisional IRA.
Mr Blair bought Howard’s painting at auction in 2003 for £26,250 and it now hangs in his office at at his Buckinghamshire home.
Mr Adams said the Howard picture made an ‘interesting backdrop’ to the portrait, adding that it “reflects his work back in the day on the Northern Ireland peace process… I wanted to paint him as he was on a day-to-day basis when I visited to undertake sittings for the formal NPG commission.”
He added: “The work was completed during the Olympics and the strong presence of the Union flag seemed to fit the occasion.
“He was a compliant sitter and was happy to pose for me however I saw fit, no strings attached.”
Another portrait of Mr Blair by Mr Adams is already on display at the National Portrait Gallery, but the latest portrait was part of his private collection but the image going on display later this month was in the artist’s private collection and it is the first time it will be shown in public.
The portrait of Tony Blair can be seen by the public at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Open Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London, May 8-23.