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|PB: Friday, 20 June 2008
Megakles Rogakos, Painter Ronald N. Sherr and Alexander N. Sherr
Painter Ronald Sherr delivers his speech before the unveiling his Portrait of Dr. Bailey
President John S. Bailey and Chairman Peter Thun do the honors and unveil the Portrait
Mr. Ronald N. Sherr, Mrs. Irene Bailey, Dr. John S. Bailey and Ms. Jeanie du Pont
Ronald N. Sherr presents his Portrait of ACG President Dr. Bailey in the John S. Bailey Library
First, I would just like to say how honored and delighted I feel to be invited to The American College of Greece to take part in tonight's ceremony. I am thrilled actually to be back in Athens as I have not been here for quite some time... In fact, it's been over thirty years... and in thinking back, I could swear I remember that there was still a roof over the Parthenon. In any case, it's great to be here and I am also very pleased to have my son Alex along with me on this trip. He has been dying to see the spectacular sights of Athens and Greece since he was a little boy...
For my part, I have always been a reluctant speaker at portrait unveilings as I am a firm believer in the adage that it is better (at least in my case) ... it is better to keep your mouth shut and have men think you a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.
That said, I will tell you that interestingly for me, I realized on our flight coming over from New York, that in all the years that I have been a portrait painter and with all the unveiling ceremonies that I have attended, I don't ever remember talking about the actual process of painting and what it is that I strive to achieve in a portrait. It is of particular importance in this case as Dr. Bailey's portrait commenced in New York and was completed over a year and a half later in Hong Kong. After an initial and wonderful introduction to President Bailey at the Lotos Club in Manhattan, he graciously made time to pose for me in my New York studio. There is absolutely no substitute for working directly from life - and for me to paint a portrait entirely from life requires upwards of forty - three hour sittings. Not many in this day and age can afford to give that much time and effort, and I must often photograph clients to reduce the number of sittings... but, herein lays my greatest difficulty. Photographs provide a limited amount of information in comparison to having the real thing in front of me and I also like to think of that limited information as misinformation because of the myriad distortions of perspective, color and focus. A photograph represents the sitter in only two dimensions... and more importantly... as he or she exist for only a fraction of a second in time... yet when working from life the painting takes shape through a synthesis of numerous characteristics chosen at different times and then combined to produce an image that represents something altogether different. For example... one minute, the sitter may be terribly preoccupied - deep in thought with facial expressions describing those emotions, the next laughing over the state of the US economy, another minute showing the strains of jet lag, and the next 'crying' over the state of the US economy. What I am trying to say is that all of those differences in mood and appearance - combined with changes in light, color and numerous other environmental factors... not to mention my own changing reactions and moods in observing these differences - bring about a complexity and depth to the painting that simply could not exist in a photograph. In fact, and this is the strangest part, combining all of these elements together, results in an image of the subject as he (in this case Dr. Bailey) never really appeared. It is a sacrifice of the literal... for a portrait that hopefully feels like the sitter. In the end, this is my greatest challenge... that the portrait feels like the subject and that all who view it may also feel the sitter's character and presence as if he or she were standing in front of them.
I must confess that I painted and repainted this portrait of Dr. Bailey over a period of many, many months and with endless changes, striving to achieve just that...; and I continued to tweak the portrait until I felt that he was beginning to speak to me...; telling me to put my brushes down.
I apologize if I have rambled on a bit too much about this, but I wanted to make it very clear that this is not a photograph of Dr. Bailey, it is a painted portrait... and I hope it is one that many of you here today will find a fitting representation of a man so important to The American College of Greece. In closing, let me also say that this is not, and should not be a night about my painting. Instead, this is a night about its eminent subject, President John S. Bailey... to me, an extraordinary individual for whom I have the utmost admiration. I simply cannot convey to you my joy in working with him on this project.
Dr. Bailey, my heartfelt thanks to you for your interest in my work and for your sincere efforts in posing - but most of all for giving me a chance to meet and get to know you.
In addition, my sincerest thanks to Ms. Jeanie du Pont for introducing me to Dr. Bailey - and also to Mr. Nicholas Jiavaras, Ms. Anna Fotinou, and Mr. Megakles Rogakos for all of their invaluable help in making this portrait commission a terrific and memorable experience from beginning to end.
Thank you all for coming tonight. 'Efharisto' (Thanks).
[Ronald N. Sherr 20/06/2008]
|INFORMATION: Megakles Rogakos, The American College of Greece - ACG Art
6 Gravias Street, Agia Paraskevi, Athens, GR 15342, Greece, T: +30-210-6009800/1456, E: info@ACGart.gr
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