Belfast artist hopes to meet Angela Merkel after triumph

Northern Ireland artist Colin Davidson
Northern Ireland artist Colin Davidson

A Northern Ireland artist whose portrait of Angela Merkel made the front cover of Time magazine hopes the sudden German interest in his work will lead to a meeting with the country’s famous leader.

Colin Davidson, from Belfast, found his painting beamed across the world this week when Time published it on the cover of an edition which crowned the German chancellor as its person of the year.

“I’ve been fielding a lot of calls from Germany,” he said.

“The German press are very interested in talking to me.”

Davidson, whose large-scale portraits of famous people have gained international recognition, said Time contacted him after its creative director saw his painting of Brad Pitt hanging in the Smithsonian gallery in Washington DC.

But the magazine asked him to do something he had never done before - paint someone without a live sitting.

“Time made it clear to me that there wouldn’t be the time or opportunity to have a sitting with her, so I was hesitant at the start, I have to say, because I have never worked in this way before,” he said.

“But you have got to think carefully before you turn Time down, so I decided to rise to the challenge.

“I didn’t work from any one photograph, I looked at lots of photographs of her and I looked at a huge amount of film footage of her. What I also did was go back into my archive of sittings of the many people I have painted in the past and looked at how the light fell on their faces and how the three-dimensional form works.

“I brought all of those elements together in the one piece. The painting tried to capture the spirit of her compassion, her dignity and her humanity - that’s what I really want to come across in the piece.”

Davidson said he was given six weeks to complete the work and only found it was going to be the front page image when the magazine was published on Wednesday.

And what of the prospects of finally meeting the only subject he has ever painted without them sitting in front of him?

“She will see the painting, she will know about it, it’s all over the German press,” the artist said.

“I’ve sort of learned in my career not to hold out too much hope, but it would be nice to meet her.”