With its enigmatic stare and off-kilter crown, Jonathan Yeo’s portrait of Kevin Spacey playing Richard III makes a striking centrepiece for an upcoming exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.
The painting of the Old Vic Artistic Director in character from Sam Mendes’ Bridge Project production of Shakespeare’s history play, which ran at the Waterloo venue in 2011, is one of many portraits of cultural, media and political figures that can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery in the exhibition Jonathan Yeo Portraits from 11 September to 5 January.
Speaking about the decision to paint Spacey in character Yeo, one of Britain’s most highly regarded portrait painters, said: “We decided to put him in character as Shakespeare’s notorious villain, partly as a nod to the tradition of theatrical portraits of the past, and partly as a celebration of what may go down as his most memorable stage role. The main dilemma with painting a great actor in a role is knowing how much you are portraying the man and how much the character he is playing. In the end I tried to leave it to the viewer to decide for themselves.”
A trip to the National Portrait Gallery may be the only way to see Hollywood star turned Artistic Director in character this year, as he is not due to appear in either of the Old Vic’s two currently programmed productions, Sweet Bird Of Youth, which stars Kim Cattrall and begins previews tomorrow, or autumn offering Much Ado About Nothing, led by James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave.