Monday, 13 July 2015

Richard Ansdell Composite Portrait

I was a guest at the Lytham Arts Festival last week, a brilliant local festival organised with real enthusiasm for the arts. Part of my contribution was creating a composite portrait of Richard Ansdell.

A portrait of the painter Richard Ansdell (1815-1885) by Russell Payne composed entirely of sections of his own paintings.
A portrait of the painter Richard Ansdell (1815-1885) by Russell Payne
composed entirely of sections of his own paintings. 

Animal painter Richard Ansdell trained with portraitist W.C. Smith & at Liverpool Academy from 1835. Ansdell made his name with portraits of sitters with horses and cattle; then in Scotland with stags and sheep. Retaining a deep love of Scotland, he also visited Spain in 1856 and 1857, resulting in scenes of Spanish subjects, including mules and a richer tone of colouring. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1861 and Royal Academician in 1870. 

During part of his career he kept a "summer house" at Lytham St Annes where a district, Ansdell, is named after him. He is the only English artist to have been honoured in this way.

A commercial piece I did for a French company a few years ago introduced me to computer mapped composite images. A program breaks down libraries of images into a simple grids of colour then matches those simplified grids to small sections of one larger image, giving a picture mosaic made from hundreds or even thousands of different smaller images. I’d also used it last year in an Andy Kaufman portrait for a London exhibition, taking screen grabs of videos Andy appeared in and mapping them all together into a portrait.

Talking to the organisers of Lytham Arts Festival about the collection of Ansdell works in Lytham, I wanted to show the scope of Ansdell's work, while also creating a personal piece that showed something of the man himself. Using the composite technique, but this time using a library of images the subject themselves had painted was a natural progression and the coming together of the old and the new seemed such a natural pairing. Each smaller image is a section from Ansdells body of work. In a sense this is an Ansdell self-portrait, every brush stroke you see is by Ansdell, they are re-arranged digitally in a way he would never have imagined.

Richard Ansdell
Original Richard Ansdell Photo
digitally coloured Richard Ansdell photo
Digitally coloured Richard Ansdell photo

I digitally coloured and tidied up a photo of the artist as an older man and used this as the template for mapping together the composite. Then I manually went through an archive of his works, including some high resolution scans provided by the Lytham Arts Society and many more downloaded from Auction houses and galleries who have scanned his work over the years. Then manually cropped out identically sized sections of these paintings, sometimes small details, sometimes nearly the whole painting, to create the nearly 5000 tiles that make up the image.

Richard Ansdell
Close up details of tiles

The final piece is printed 6 feet tall, a strictly limited print run of two only, signed and framed, you really have to step back to see the composite image appear, close up you can appreciate the variety Ansdell put into his work. It shows what a prolific career as an artist he enjoyed, maintaining a constant output for decades and leaving behind a magnificent body of work. It's still on display in Stringers shop window in Lytham, but I'll be removing it this week.

Richard Ansdell

The 6 feet tall framed portrait was on display in Lytham, then listed on eBay  and I really wanted it to stay in the area and not be shipped down to a London gallery. In the end the auction was won by a London buyer, but he was born and bred in Lytham, so thats close enough.

If you are interested in commissioning a composite portrait on this scale, I do a limited number of commissions each year. I have done some recently where I take every digital photo a family has and create one very large composite portrait of the family using these images, it makes a striking talking point for any house. Prices start at £250. Get in touch using the contact form on the right and I'll let you know if I have any available commission slots.

No comments:

Post a Comment