The sitter's tale: Julian Bream

New faces at the National Portrait Gallery: the guitarist discovers a fearsome look in his eyes
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The Independent Culture
In 1984, I was contacted by Michael Taylor, who had won a commission from a sponsor and decided he would like to paint a picture of me. I agreed to do it, because I'm not unused to sitting for portraits: my father was a commercial artist and I used to model for him. I've sat for other painters too, including my brother, so I am rather a seasoned sitter.

I found Michael a nice chap, easy to get on with. What I admired about him was that he was very sure of himself. We planned four sittings, but after we had done two, I was involved in a terrible car accident and was in hospital for some time. It took a while for me to recover and to be able to sit still again for an hour.

When he finished the painting, I was very pleased with what he had done. I thought his sense of composition was good, and I also liked his sense of colour. There's an open guitar case beside me, painted in a very beautiful green, and that's juxtaposed with a very dark blue shirt which I was wearing. I found that very striking.

He also painted me with a fearsome look in my eyes, but when I asked friends, they said "Well, you know Julian, you may not like to know it but sometimes you look exactly like that". After I got over the shock of the eyes, I felt they were rather impressive. I obviously do look like that, although I don't look at myself. He'd just caught that glimpse of me.

I am very passionate about music, so I think that might be evident. At the time, I was just thinking "God, I mustn't move - I must keep still".

Michael Taylor's 1984 portrait of Julian Bream is on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London WC2 (0171 306 0055)

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