Martyn Burdon drawing
Martyn Burdon drawing of Lenny Henry

Lenny was photographed last year by Martyn Burdon for the BP Portrait awards 2020.  Martyn has drawn the most amazing portrait which he has given us permission to use on the website and here is a link to the website which went live with the exhibition this week.  
https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/bp-portrait-award-2020/exhibition/exhibitors/

Martyn said: “My original idea was to possibly depict Lenny Henry in character as ‘Elmore’ from the August Willson play ‘King Hedley II’, but this ultimately wasn’t pursued. Lenny proved to be a very captivating presence simply as himself.

“It seemed right to portray Lenny in quite a simple straightforward way, I wanted to try and capture some of his gravity and vigour. He’s very well mannered and gentle person, but also a quite physically imposing figure (he is very tall!), and I wanted to try and convey something of that strength.

“I think the direct gaze in the picture is quite poised and compelling, as you look at the painting, I think it feels as if you are maybe held in moment.

“I always like to use natural daylight during a sitting, I think it roots a portrait in a particular moment, and there was a particularly beautiful pearlescent light on the day of the first sitting. I like to try and capture a fleeting moment, and work in a detailed but delicate and painterly way

“Lenny was very pleasant company during the sitting, he gave me a fascinating insight into some of his recent work in the theatre, and it was very interesting to hear about the writing process behind his memoir.

“He also performed a Shakespearean soliloquy, and did a marvellous impression of Don Worrington to keep me entertained!

“I was born in the early 1980’s, so Lenny Henry as been a part of popular culture throughout my life, it was a great pleasure to try and capture a side of him.”