THE ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD

4th July 2008

"COLCHESTER: ROYAL ARTIST'S PORTRAIT OF MANDELA"

Sitter, Portrait and Artist


Portrait of Nelson Mandela

The portrait of Mr Nelson Mandela

Royal artist Richard Stone has fulfilled a lifetime ambition - and helped to raise £400,000 for charity.

Mr Stone, who lives near Colchester, was asked to paint a portrait of iconic civil rights leader Nelson Mandela as part of his 90th birthday celebrations.

The painting was sold to Hollywood stars Will Smith, Emma Thompson and Uma Thurman through an auction at a dinner in Hyde Park which was held to celebrate Mr Mandela's birthday and to promote his charity projects.

The proceeds of the painting have gone to Madiba's charity work, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and 46664 AIDS charity.

Mr Stone, who painted the portrait for no charge, described it as an extraordinary honour to paint Mr Mandela.

He attended two sittings with Mr Mandela in South Africa and worked on the painting at home before completing it in South Africa.

Mr Stone said: "He had a marvellous presence. I was completely taken aback by his modesty and humility.

"You sense you are in the presence of a very great man. It is not anything he does, it is what he doesn't do.

"He has warmth and charm and humour which is very special. I have never met anyone quite like him. He was extraordinary."

He added: "The challenge was not only to capture a good likeness but also fulfil a great public expectation and record something of his extraordinary spirit."

Mr Stone said the painting had been a "labour of love" and the fulfilment of a life-long ambition. He admitted he was nervous when the painting was unveiled.

He said: "He smiled broadly and clutched my hand in his. His eyes twinkled and I guess, for such a modest man, he felt the portrait had done him justice.

"He has a marvellous face with all life's experience etched on it."

Mr Stone and his wife attended the London dinner along when the painting raised £400,00 for Mr Mandela's charities.

Portrait of Nelson Mandela

The back of the portrait of Mr Mandela

Actor Forest Whitaker compered the evening for the 520 guests which included former US president Bill Clinton, celebrity Oprah Winfrey and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The auction - which also included lots such as a life-size bronze of Mr Mandela's right hand - raised £5 million in total.

Mr Stone, who has painted portraits of leading politicians and heads of states around the world, said he believed the portrait had raised so much because no-one could remember when he last sat for a portrait.

He added: "It was an amazingly rare opportunity to be given. Quite unforgettable."

The portrait, which Mr Mandela signed on the back, will be shared by its new owners.