Portrait of Philip Jessup   





I was commissioned to paint a portrait of Phil Jessup to celebrate his 80th birthday in 2006 by his wife Dr Helen Jessup.


Both Phil and Helen were great friends of mine and patrons of my work so it was a pleasure to paint this portrait.


It was difficult to do Phil justice in this work because of his breadth of experience in the world and his quiet unassuming manner. When I first met him he was working for INCO in London. When he returned to the USA in 1978 he was made Secretary-General Counsel for the whole of the company. Later when he was stationed in Jakarta, it was a tribute to his undoubted diplomatic skills and wise judgement that the relations of the Company with the Indonesian government led a charmed life especially when the Company became embroiled in a rather acrimonious staff dispute. 


Phils' sojourn in Indonesia turned out to be very profitable for his wife Helen, who studied for her Art History Doctorate at the Courtauld Institute under John Golding, and later wrote a fabulous book on the Court Arts of Indonesia between 1986 and 1990 resulting in a large exhibition of the works for the Asia Society Galleries in New York, the book forming a comprehensive catalogue for the show. 


Phil returned to the USA and became Secretary-General Counsel to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC hence the setting for this portrait.  I notice that by placing a man on an exercise machine in the gallery I included a reference to my interest in the concept of self-improvement and human consciousness: subjects that were occupying my mind at that time and still do.  


The significance of this in relation to my portrait of Phil might have been that I never felt that Phil ever gave the impression of trying to demonstrate his skills or improve on his personal qualities, rather he always seemed to be quietly getting on with whatever issues that he was dealing with at the time without troubling you with them. 


As a reference aimed at the family, I also included a bird flying to eat out of his hand. I think Phil also found it amusing although I did not realise that Phil had been an enthusiastic birder all his life and had kept a notebook since the age of eight.


Rather amusingly my claim to fame could be founded on the fact that my portrait of Dr Helen Jessup was hung in his office at the National Gallery for many years.