Thoughts on Neil and Glenys Kinnock (National Portrait Gallery)

Andrew Tift’s portrait of Neil and Glenys Kinnock, exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery, is clearly within the tradition of portrait painting going back to the eighteenth century. In the background are objects that tell us about the sitter. The bust of Bevin leaning towards us, and the bust of Nelson Mandela next to the one of Neil Kinnock. A comic book on the table is titled Too Much and might be a comment on aspects of Neil Kinnock’s political life. On the shelf is a row of classic novels representing culture and learning, which contrast with the decorated cups n the coffee table depicting the modern and the domestic.

Glenys Kinnock is at ease, which is represented by her casual clothing and she looks with pride and tenderness at her husband. In contrast, Neil Kinnock looks at the viewer with a slight regret and puzzlement and wearing a red jumper reminder of his socialist roots. At the side is a fragment of a picture which shows Neil and Glenys under the words people and the rose which symbolised Kinnock’s years with the Labour party. Is it significant that the image is in black and white symbolising the past and what the Labour Party was?

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