I was invited to the unveiling of a portrait on Saturday, of this lovely painting of Martine and Peter Oborne by artist Anthony Oakshett. Having your portrait done is not an every day occurence, so I wondered if there was a special reason, but no, it was just for the hell of it, because it’s nice thing to do and to hand on to the children, they said. Martine and Peter are well known in Chiswick as the vicar of St Michael’s Church Elmwood Rd and political journalist on the Daily Mail respectively. Peter, who is an associate editor of The Spectator and former chief political commentator of The Daily Telegraph, until he resigned in 2015 on a matter of principle, has history with the artist, as they went to university together, at Christ’s Church College Cambridge. They’ve known each other for 40 years.
‘I was dreading having to sit still’
‘It took a couple of years, but only because Peter is so difficult to pin down’ says Martine, but the actual contact time between artist and sitters was only a couple of days. They talked about how they wanted it to be and Anthony took hundreds of photos – ‘virtually every way it’s possible for two people to share the same space’ before settling on the breakfast table at their place in Wiltshire. ‘We wanted it to say something about our lives’ says Martine. The observant will notice the view across the garden shows a church in the background and those who know them really well might pick up on the birthday card on the table – a reminder that they share the same birthday on 11 July (a fact which doesn’t stop Peter from forgetting it, she says). ‘I was dreading having to sit still’ says Peter, ‘but in fact we only had to do that for about 15 minutes’. They both described the experience of being painted as ‘great fun’ and are delighted with the end result.
Anthony, who led a team of artists commissioned to paint a frieze of the Armada for the House of Lords, has composed many portraits, including the Queen. He told me the thing with a double portrait is that as well as capturing the likeness and the personality of the subjects, you have to portray something of the relationship between the two people. I think he has. Martine’s always smiling and Peter looks sceptical, as if he’s about to challenge something. Anthony dismisses the idea that a portrait painter has any particular psychological insight. ‘The artist observes the visual clues and the viewer projects their own interpretation of the subject’. So my cod psychology tells me he’s picked up on visual clues to a deep fondness and shared sense of fun. It looks to me like he’s teasing her about something and she’s just letting it roll over her, before having the final say.
If you’d like to see more of Anthony’s work, you can see it here.