The Sitter's Tale: George Weidenfeld

As the publishing house he co-founded celebrates its 50th anniversary, the 80-year-old grandee sees both serenity and signs of worry in his portrait
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The Independent Culture
I knew Paul Benney's work from a group portrait he did of the people responsible for building the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. It hung for a while at the National Portrait Gallery and I had the good fortune of seeing a sketch of it in Paul's studio, and bought a copy. It has great sentimental value for me: it includes the likes of Yitzak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Isaiah Berlin, President Herzog, and Lord Rothschild. The tone is brown sepia, which gives it a Rembrandt-esque feeling, and it's a very dramatic painting, with everyone seated at a long table.

So I was extremely proud to be painted by the man who had produced this painting and whose work I admired. I went to his studio in Notting Hill for a number of sittings. He was a very companionable person. The conversation flowed and was very interesting. He has a very animated mind. How would I describe the expression on my face? Serenely contemplative, with perhaps a hint of worry in the back of the cranium. The likeness is there, and the mood is right - there is something of a far-away look about it, which is very me. I love portraits over all other kinds of painting. Most of my own paintings are portraits - I've portraits of Austrian emperors of the 18th century, and of Renaissance Popes. I don't have landscapes or animals. My background is architecture and people - in other words I like people and man-made things.

Lord Weidenfeld is the co-founder of the publishers Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Paul Benney's 1996 portrait of him hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, WC2 (0171-306 0055)

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