Sunday, 19 September 2021

Can you spot the lady?

TAKE a close look at this painting and you may recognise a familiar face.

TAKE a close look at this painting and you may recognise a familiar face.

Yes, there on the Gloriana is Lady McAlpine, of Fawley Hill, who was the driving force behind this year’s Thames Traditional Boat Festival, where the royal barge was the top attraction.

In the background, you can make out the Upper Thames Rowing Club clubhouse while the other boat is L’Orage, one of the Dunkirk Little Ships, which also took part in the event.

The painting is by award-winning Henley artist Bill Mundy who was among the record-breaking crowd at this year’s festival in July.

Bill tells me: “I went to the festival because I love seeing all the polished boats. I walked along the towpath and sat down by a grass verge and watched the boats go by.

“When Gloriana was rowed past I took a couple of photographs. Later, I was sitting on L’Orage, which I have done many times, and I thought I would put them both in a picture.”

Back at his home in Wargrave Road, Bill went through the pictures he had taken and used them as the basis of the painting. He says: “I had to work out a number of things, such as the lengths of the boats because you have to work out their size in relation to each other. Gloriana is around 95ft and L’Orage is 26ft. I had to paint them in proportion.”

He then did a drawing in faint pencil before starting the actual painting, some of which could be a bit laborious.

Bill says: “I like to start off with the interesting bits so I painted the two figures in the foreground, the man’s hat and braces, and then I moved on to the rowing boat, all the while going back and forth to the boring things like the trees or the grass.”

In all, it took him about 150 hours to complete the painting, which he has had framed and hopes to sell. Bill tries to paint at least one painting incorporating the river and Henley each year.

These have included When The Queen Came to Henley, The Olympians at Henley and the spectacular Spitfire Over Henley, which made the front page of the Henley Standard in 2012.

The Swan Uppers at Marsh Lock was recently bought by the Vintners Company, which takes part in the annual ceremony, and is hanging in the Swan Room at their headquarters in London.

Bill says: “A painting like that I would sell for about £8,000 but I sold it to Vintners for £5,000 as I felt that is where the picture should go.”

The artist is also well-known for his miniature portraits of subjects including kings, sultans and princesses from around the world as well as local luminaries such as veteran singer Vince Hill and the late Paul Daniels.

So what does his friend Lady McAlpine think of being included in his latest work? She tells me: “Yet another amazing piece of work by Bill. As an artist, I am completely in awe of his talent. He must be the greatest miniaturist since Hilliard but, sadly, not so well appreciated because Hilliard wasn’t competing with the camera!”

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