Portrait records the making of an official portrait as the outgoing director of the National Portrait Gallery, Charles Saumarez-Smith, sits for artist trustee Tom Phillips. As the painting progresses, a curious psychodrama develops that reveals the vulnerabilities and vanities of both artist and sitter.
Portrait is about to be released as part of a DVD titled IN YOUR FACE. It's a 30' film about a picture and a process that took nine months of once-weekly sittings to make. Coluga Pictures filmed the whole affair. It appeared on Channel 4's The Art Show in 2004.
Narrated by Alan Bennett
Filmed, Edited & Directed by Christopher Swayne
Written, Filmed, Produced & Directed by Bruno Wollheim
Original Music composed by Fratelli Brothers
Further information on PORTRAIT:
Reviews on Portrait:"...finest of all was the way you caught the mutual loneliness of sitter and painter, and the strange duality of the experience – the sitter being observed, but observing the painter, who in turn feels scrutinised; the sitter wanting to be interesting to the painter, and the painter knowing that the sitter will inevitably soon be looking at what he has made of him; the painter exposing his work to the sitter (whose soul he has been trying to steal) and the sitter exposing himself by his comments on the painter's work."
Simon Callow, actor and portrait subject
Portrait is perhaps the most truthful expose of this particularly masochistic genre of painting. The daily trudge of the sitter to the studio creates that vital thread of continuity to which the artist will desperately cling during the painting of a portrait and it is this which forms the core of the film. Brilliantly edited and beautifully shot, it's acutely painful to watch at times. The faith of both sitter and painter is severely tested during filming while the ebb and flow of the process is laid bare for our scrutiny. Humour is also present, dark and most welcome; on occasion too, a panic quietly bubbles to the surface. A wonderful achievement and an astonishing archive, the piece informs with both empathy and impartiality. Be prepared to take sides as it unfolds.
Jennifer McRae, portrait painter