CHESTER’S Grosvenor Museum has unveiled a portrait of Cheshire author Alan Garner which was commissioned after it received backing from the Victoria and Albert Purchase Fund and Grosvenor Museum Society.
It will be on display at the Grosvenor Museum from September 18.
BP Portrait Award winner Andrew Tift has created the new portrait which will become part of the Museum’s permanent collection.
The portrait has been commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Alan’s first novel ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ which is set on Alderley Edge and takes its inspiration from the Legend of Alderley.
Alan grew up in Alderley Edge where his father’s family have lived for more than 400 years.
Alan says of the experience of sitting for his portrait: “Sitting for Andrew Tift involves being photographed several hundred times over many hours. The only instruction to me was not to smile. The intensity of his concentration meant that he talked little, and even at rest his eyes were lasers.
“He gave every aspect of the subject the same degree of attention -my shoe was as important as my nose- and I sometimes felt like the victim at a crime scene under a forensic lens. Then Andrew told me he had finished. He said, ‘I know where your left knee is now.’”
Artist Andrew Tift has won numerous awards for his paintings. His work is held in many public collections and includes portraits of Tony Benn and Neil Kinnock. He says of the experience of painting Alan: “As soon as I arrived at Blackden I knew that I was in for an experience far different to my small town life. It was like stepping back in time to the middle ages and I could smell the history in the beams and the soil.
“Alan was a natural story teller as he recounted tales of his friends over coffee and chocolate biscuits. He hadn’t slept the previous night because Alan took a similar view to the Native American Indians, that I was going to ‘steal his soul’ through the portrait.
“As soon as I walked into, what I refer to as ‘the writer’s room’, I knew that it was the perfect setting for the portrait. It was where Alan wrote most of his books, cosily on the rocking chair, in front of the open fire, surrounded by his objects.”
Museum Director Sue Hughes said: “The whole process has been incredible to watch. Andrew and Alan hit it off straight away and Andrew enjoyed the experience so much that he created a full length rather than the half length portrait that was originally commissioned.”
The Lord Mayor John Ebo added: “Alan Garner is very special to Cheshire, imaging stories within our own known countryside for continuing generations.
“This portrait celebrating his 50 years as an author is important to Chester and thanks go to the Victoria and Albert Purchase Fund and our local Museum Society for commissioning the painting.
“I am pleased that the unveiling has happened in my year of office and am sure that it will create a great deal of interest from his readers when it is displayed in the Grosvenor Museum in September.”