A West Midlands artist has turned to one of British arts's best known models for his latest project, writes Terry Grimley
Walsall artist Andrew Tift has been shortlisted in the final three for the prestigious BP Portrait Award for his triple portrait of Kitty Godley.
Promoted by the National Portrait Gallery, it is one of the biggest art prizes in the country with a first prize of £25,000 and a £4,000 portrait commission which will go into the gallery's permanent collection.
This is the tenth year that Tift has been selected for the BP Portrait Award exhibition and the fouth time that he has been shortlisted. The competition is now in its 27th year at the NPG and this year received a record 1,113 entries.
Now aged 80, Kitty Godley is the daughter of Kathleen Garman and the sculptor Jacob Epstein. She was the first wife of the painter Lucian Freud, and features in many of his paintings of the 1940s.
She later married the economist, Wynne Godley, who was the model for Epstein's sculpture of St Michael at Coventry Cathedral and was later a prominent critic of the monetarist policies of the Thatcher government in the 1980s.
Her mother, who grew up in Wednesbury, formed an art collection with her friend Sally Ryan after Epstein's death in 1959 and gave it to Walsall in 1972.
The collection, now on display in Walsall's New Art Gallery, includes one of Freud's paintings of Kitty.
Andrew Tift explains: "Over the years I always loved the painting and wanted to do a follow-up. I put forward a proposal to the gallery to do a more complete set of paintings based on Kitty and they seemed quite interested. I contacted her through the gallery and she said yes. "So I got her address - she lives in a village called Cavendish in Cambridgeshire - and went and spent the day there and took about 400 photographs. We were chatting and I was taking pictures."
Tift, who trained in illustration at the University of Central England, has previously been shortlisted for portraits of Tony Benn, a First World War veteran and a self-portrait.
"To be honest I've been going for this since 1992. It's the only competition I've entered and I think it suits the kind of work I do. You can't enter again once you've won it, and I've only got a couple of years left, because it's for artists under 40 and I'm 37 now."
Tift works exclusively from photographs and has chosen to do his Kitty triptych in black and white. He says: "I had been watching those John Freeman TV interviews from the 1960s, Face to Face. Tony Hancock was one of the subjects. I was influenced by the idea of a conversation, and the camerawork which was very intimate, with real closeups from different angles capturing different expressions. That's why I did the triptych."
The triptych will form part of an exhibition at the New Art Gallery next year which will also include a painting that refers directly to the Freud portrait painted 60 years earlier and some charcoal drawings.
Tift is also currently working on a portrait of Chief Lord Justice Woolf for the Inner Temple and a series of portraits of Old Bailey judges. Past subjects have included Neil and Glenys Kinnock, and he was also commissioned by his American gallery in Santa FE to paint a series of "faces of New Mexico", including hippies, Vietnam veterans and native Americans.
One of his earlier paintings, from a series on Japanese car workers painted on car doors, has recently been bought by Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
"I may also be doing a Premier League footballer - but I don't want to say any more about that because it's not definite," he says.
The winner of the BP Portrait Award will be announced at a ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday June 13.