Having worked his way up from selling beds in the East End of London, Ronnie Lancaster was a highly successful Essex businessman. Lancaster plc commissioned this as a boardroom portrait, and I strove to capture the dynamism that had made him a local legend in the luxury car market.
Although there were few traces of his origins, for he had largely assimilated the behaviour of those who formed his natural market, I hope that I convey a man who had obviously drawn on his own resources to achieve the best things in life.
Sittings took place at Mr Lancaster’s house in Dedham, on the Essex–Suffolk borders. The early study portrayed him with his favourite carved oak hall chair. I felt this did not capture the energy and presence of the man, but after the third sitting was finished and the conversation turned to his beautiful gardens, he relaxed into what many people recall as his ‘trademark pose’. The old portrait was abandoned and this one superseded it. Sadly, the urbane Mr Lancaster died soon after this portrait was completed.
Famous for his love of gourmet entertaining, he made characteristic provision for all the mourners at his funeral to lunch at his favourite restaurant, Le Talbooth in Dedham, where his family placed this portrait in a prominent position. Far from being morbid, it was as though Ronnie was there in person, hosting the party, as he had so often done before.