Monday, 21 July 2014


The National Portrait Gallery has started selling beautiful prints of some of my BP Travel Award work. You can see them framed and on the wall in their Print Gallery, which is downstairs, next to the book shop. They are also available online, just follow this link:

Via my website you can buy beautiful small prints.
They are 4x6”/10x15cm on heavy quality card, with a red decorative edge. Almost all Lace Trail paintings are available.  They cost £8 each including postage to anywhere in the world. They would make lovely gifts and are perfect for framing. Please order here (just choose which image you like from the drop down menu and pay via paypal)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Lace in Box

Lace in Box
Oil on linen on board

A piece of 17th century Flemish lace. In a box.
at Beaux Arts Bath

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Four Ages of Woman

The Four Ages of Woman
oil on linen
50x60cm each

This is a series of 4 paintings in which modern 21st century women at various stages of their lives are portrayed wearing an authentic piece of early 17th century lace, as often seen in 17th century portraits.

National Portrait Gallery, London. Until 21 September 2014 and then on tour.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

She Becomes Her

She Becomes Her
Oil on linen

at the National Portrait Gallery, London until 21 September 2014

This painting was inspired by the works of Robert Peake the Elder (1551 -1619) who painted women in his typical Tudor ‘flat’ style - where there was more attention to dress than to individuality or facial features. In this painting I played with modern ideas about the way women get represented in (2-dimensional) modern media: idealised, flat and unattainable. At the same time there is a real woman behind it all (face mask). I played with 2-dimensionality (writing on the painting) and 3-dimensionality (realism).
I created the costume myself, roughly inspired by late Tudor and Jacobean fashion but with modern, antique and vintage materials. A beaded ‘flapper’ cape from the 20s, golden lace from the 19th century, reproduction tudor buttons (that don’t function as buttons) and theatrical make-up.
She Becomes Her, oil, 26x40”. Detail

I created the costume for this painting by hand, working with a
beaded cape from the 1920s, golden lace from the 19th century,
silver thread, reproduction Tudor buttons etc etc.

Me working on the painting

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


Oil on linen

Part of The Lace Trail
(BP Travel Award)
not exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery but it will be when the exhibition goes on tour to bigger venues in Edinburgh and Sunderland.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Long Wait

The Long Wait
Oil on canvas

Created as part of The Lace Trail
Bp Travel Award 2013

This painting is not hanging at the National Portrait Gallery (space was limited) but will hopefully be included when the BP Portrait Award 2014 goes on tour to Sunderland and Edinburgh.

The 21st century pregnant model is wearing a taffeta silk skirt set with pearls. The design of the pearl skirt has been taken from a portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger of an uknown pregnant lady which hangs in the Tate Gallery. I have tried to create connections between a modern 21st century pregnant woman and a woman in the same state from 400 years ago. Much has changed since Tudor times, but the wonder of new life will probably never cease to amaze.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, portrait of unknown Woman,
©Tate Gallery, London, 1595.
The background design was inspired by the ‘Anne Boleyn Canopy’ (a lace ‘sheet’ or blanket) which is said to have been used for the christening of Elizabeth I and worked on by Anne Boleyn. It is kept at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire (although I question the dating of the lace canopy I still included it in my painting, as it has associations of pregnancy and motherhood. See my book ’The Lace Trail for the discussion of the dating).
The creation of the skirt - see for the how and what my book The Lace Trail

The 'Anne Boleyn Canopy’, lace canopy held at Sudeley Castle.
Probably dating from 19th century.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Pearl Necklace

This is the last painting in the series ‘The Four Ages of Woman’ which shows a woman in four stages of her life, each painted as they are, as truthfully and honestly as I could. Each are wearing an authentic piece of early 17th century lace, shaped in a collar often seen in early 17th century fashion. The lace and the modern women are connected in these paintings.
The Pearl Necklace, oil on linen, 50x60cm
The Pearl Necklace, oil, 50x60cm. Detail

Italian Bobbin lace, around 1620. Used for ‘The Pearl Necklace’ painting

I carefully and loosely attached the lace to a simply-made collar. The lace was so delicate I had to be extra careful and after the photo shoot remove the lace and put it away in its storage box, only taking it out once in a while when I was painting.
The lace is a bobbin lace, often seen in Dutch and English portraits in the early 17th century and imitates (more expensive) needle lace. It is very fine and ‘spidery’ in character and has a beautiful golden brown colour. I wonder whether this even brown colour is the original (and unusual) colour or perhaps a faded black. It is quite even however so perhaps it was meant to imitate gold as black would not have faded so evenly.
The curly and meandering pattern suggests an Italian origin although very similar types of lace were produced in Flanders at the time as well. In a Dutch painting by Nicolaes Pickenoy  a similar lace is shown as the Italian lace I used. The lace in this painting was made in Flanders.
Nicholaes Pickenoy, Portrait of Maria Swartenhont, 1627.
Rijksmuseum. (detail)
I created a simple collar using the antique and fragile lace and let my
model wear it for the painting.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Repeating Patterns

Repeating Patterns, oil on linen, 50x60cm
The 3d painting in the series ‘The Four Ages of Woman’ is titled ‘Repeating Patterns'. The model, an artist friend, is wearing a ruff made from 17th century needle lace- inspired by many ruffs seen in 17th century portraits, like in Larkin’s portrait of Anne Clifford at the Portrait Gallery in London.

My model is wearing what she wanted to wear and I painted her as honest and truthfully as I could, only adding the lace collar.

On show at the BP Portrait Award 2014, London, until 21 September 2014

A detail of her collar

A detail

Sophie working on the collar

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Handkerchief Girl

The Handkerchief Girl, oil on linen, 30x36”

In early 17th century portraits we often see young women holding the fashion accessory of the day, a handkerchief. Especially the paintings by William Larkin (1580s-1619) show an abundance of hankies. Larkin was only known as ‘The Curtain Master’ before more was found out about him. It was clear he was a master in painting fabrics. Inspired, I included typical elements from his paintings in my work: curtains, hankies and big dresses.
The 21st century girl in the dress is young, looks slightly bored and reluctant. Her character does not match her glamorous outfit. She is the reluctant cover girl who is looking for her own identity.
more info:

Saturday, 5 July 2014

A Fine Thread

The second in the series ‘The Four Ages of Woman’ is ‘A Fine Thread’
oil on linen, 50x60cm
created for the BP Travel Award 2013 and exhibited within the BP Portrait Award 2014 at the National Portrait Gallery until the end of September

The Lace I used for this painting is a stunning Flemish bobbin lace from around 1640. It is very fine and thin, showing the patterns so popular in the Netherlands at the time. This type of lace is regularly seen in portraiture of the time. See for example the portrait of Maria van Strijp, or the portrait of an anonymous young lady by Isaack Luttichuys and the portrait of a woman by Van der Vliet. 
My model is a friend, a mother and very spirited and active woman. I painted her portrait with as much truth and integrity as I could. I did not change her appearance, her choice of clothes or hair. The only thing I added is the piece of lace, created by someone nearly 400 years ago.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Lace Maker

The Four Ages of Woman. The Lacemaker, oil on linen, 50x60cm.
Created for the BP Travel Award and exhibited within the BP Portrait Award 2014 until 21 September 2014.

This painting was inspired by Johannes Verspronck’s ‘Girl in Blue’ at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In this painting the anonymous girl wears a lace edged kerchief (shawl). I have created a similar shawl, edged with original lace from the mid -17th century. My model, however, is completely modern; I painted her just as she was, in her favourite top. I titled it ‘The Lace Maker’ as in the early 17th century girls as young as 5 started learning the craft of lace making and by the time they were as old as my model they would have been accomplished lace makers.

The scalloped mid-17th century Flemish lace used for this painting