Sitting pretty

Fiona Graham Mackay

This country has many fine portrait painters and it was a great treat to meet one of them at the Rye Art Gallery on Friday. The local Scottish artist, Fiona Graham Mackay has painted many famous people e.g the Duchess of Cambridge, Lord Carrington; Andrew Motion and Juliet Stevenson. It was obvious that she found the poet Seamus Heaney to be an inspiring subject whilst visiting him in Dublin; the finished portrait was unveiled just two weeks before he died. Her paintings hang in the most prestigious institutions and she is also, as she explained, passionate about teaching particularly now current education budgets have reduced provision in schools. It is very much hoped that Fiona will give lessons in drawing and painting at Rye Art Gallery in the New Year.

Despite a technical glitch, her talk was full of interest with many insights into not only her working techniques but the relationship between artist and sitter. She also talked about the making of her fascinating Radio 4 series A Portrait of…, which is still available on BBC i-player.  Her charm and wit warmed up a distinctly chilly evening.

Graham Mackay’s next project may be her most challenging – a portrait of Anne Frank, commissioned by the Anne Frank Stichtung to celebrate the 90th anniversary of her birth. 

Find out about further up and coming events at the Rye Art Gallery.

Image Credits: Stephen Ashley-King.


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