New portrait of Sir David Attenborough revealed in Leicester
The painting was commissioned to commemorate Sir David’s 90th birthday, and was produced from a series of private sittings earlier this year between Sir David and the distinguished portrait artist Bryan Organ.
Sir David revealed the portrait at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery on Thursday, September 22. Visitors will be able to view it on display from September 23.
The work, which is believed to be the only solo portrait for which Sir David has agreed to sit, is an acknowledgement of his childhood connections to New Walk Museum.
As a teenager, Sir David was a volunteer at the museum, and along with his brother Richard, the late Lord Attenborough, grew up in College House in the University of Leicester when their father Frederick was principal there.
Lord Attenborough went on to international fame as an actor and director, while Sir David became one of the world’s best renowned naturalists and broadcasters in a career spanning more than 60 years.
The new portrait will complement an existing portrait of Lord Attenborough, also painted by Bryan Organ in 1986, which hangs in New Walk Museum.
Organ’s other acclaimed works include portraits of Prince Charles, former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and 2003 Rugby World Cup winning England captain Martin Johnson.
Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Sir David has connections with the city going back to his childhood, and New Walk Museum was key in forming his early fascination with the natural world.
“It is an enormous honour for the city for him to come to the museum to unveil this wonderful new portrait, which is a very fitting way to celebrate both his 90th birthday and his history with Leicester.
“The museum is of course already home both to one of the world’s largest collections of Picasso ceramics, bequeathed to the city by Sir David’s late brother Lord Attenborough, and Bryan Organ’s breath-taking 1986 portrait.
“Sir David’s portrait will now have pride of place as a permanent exhibit alongside Lord Attenborough’s portrait.
“It is a truly fitting way to commemorate these two exceptional brothers, who have become adopted sons of Leicester and retained connections to the city throughout their lives.”
The portrait was commissioned by the City of Leicester Museums Trust (COLMT) charity, on behalf of the city council’s museums and represents a ‘people’s portrait’.
COLMT is a charity founded in 1930, which buys items of historic, scientific and artistic interest for the city’s museum collection, using funds raised through money placed in donation boxes across the city’s five museum sites, as well as other donations.
COLMT chairman Jim Roberts added: “In the past, we have reacted to offers of items for purchase, using the money donated by museum visitors, but to be able to actually commission a new work of art was an exciting prospect.
“It was remarkable to have the opportunity to discuss the process of creating a portrait with the artist and to watch the painting develop. I am grateful to Bryan Organ for involving us in the process from start to finish – a rare privilege!
“We are delighted that Leicester Museums, on behalf of the people of Leicester, will now hold this important painting of a man whose connection with the city, its museums and its university, is almost legendary.”
The portrait was unveiled at a private event on Thursday, September 22, at New Walk Museum’s Victorian Gallery. Earlier in the day, Sir David opened a new visitor centre at Bradgate Park.
Full details of all Leicester museum events are available at www.leicester.gov.uk/museums