Robin Shillcock


I was of the age that comics like Illustrated Classics, Rawhide Kid and Sergeant Rock and his Howlin’ Commandoes were never out of reach, when I visited the White House, Washington D.C. and saw the portrait gallery there. Huge paintings of past presidents like George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR. There was that one portrait that stayed with me for many years: of Howard Taft, a portly man in a chair I’d never heard of. Compared to the others this painting was vibrant with life, painted with broad, vigorous brush strokes that evoked light and texture, and life itself. Twenty years on I discovered that the stodgy president had been painted by that great Swedish portraittist Anders Zorn (1860–1920).
There are others now, that inspire: Anna Ancher (1859–1935), one of the Fynboerne (Denmark); the American giant Andrew Wyeth (1918–2009), his son Jamie Wyeth, Margaret Woodward from Australia.
I don’t call myself a portrait painter in the usual sense. I don’t pose my sitters by the window for an attractive likeness. It happens, but I prefer to stalk my subjects as I would an animal, watching, looking for an angle, dreaming up a “story” that could bring out personality as well as my relationship with him or her.