Portrait of a pop star as an artist

After painting for his own pleasure for two decades, Paul McCartney has been persuaded to exhibit his work. Louise Jury explains how it happened

SEVENTY paintings by Sir Paul McCartney are to go on public display for the first time next month.

The exhibition - a selection from hundreds of paintings completed by the ex-Beatle over the past 17 years - will take place in the small town of Siegen, near Cologne, in Germany. The town was chosen as the venue because its cultural events officer expressed interest in the art - not the artist.

Sir Paul had turned down several previous offers from dealers who had merely seemed interested in his name as the selling point for an exhibition. "He isn't into that. I guess it would be the art equivalent of vanity publishing," said a friend yesterday.

Wolfgang Suttner, cultural events officer of the Siegen-Wittgenstein district, had noted McCartney's passion for painting when he read the 100-page programme for his world tour in 1993.

McCartney's interest in art began at school in Liverpool and developed in the Sixties when, through friend Robert Fraser, an art dealer, he got to know artists such as Andy Warhol and Peter Blake, and started his own art collection. But it was only when he turned 40 in 1982 that he took up painting in studios at his homes in Sussex and Long Island in the US.

"Until then I had this big block in my head that only people who went to art school were allowed to paint," said Sir Paul. "I didn't see it as my place to paint. But when I got to 40, I realised this block was madness. I wanted to paint and the only person not allowing me a canvas was me."

Since then, Sir Paul, who is entirely self-taught, has painted more than 500 pictures in oil and acrylic influenced by Willem de Kooning, a personal friend. They are described as being predominantly in a colourful and emotional Abstract Expressionist style.

His friendship with Andy Warhol is depicted in "Andy in the Garden", painted in 1990. It shows a Warhol-like figure in the autumn evening light of McCartney's home in Sussex.

"Mr Magritte's Ruler" was born out of McCartney's admiration for the artist, from whose estate he acquired a rule and an easel which he still uses.

And "Bowie Spewing", a small work from 1990, is said, by the Kunstforum Lyz gallery in Siegen, to "remind McCartney of a youthful David Bowie".

Another work, a "realistic but ironic" set of three pictures, is a "Salute to the Queen" from the man who accepted a knighthood two years ago.

There are also likely to be some paintings of his wife Linda, who died of cancer in 1998. The exhibition will also feature photographs by Linda which have not been published before.

The Siegen gallery, delighted at its scoop, has described the collection of Sir Paul's works as "fascinating" in the layered use of paint to create his compositions. Sir Paul himself says that often his subject matter is simply an "excuse to put paint on", sometimes directly from the tube or, conversely, so thinly as to be translucent.

He must have been satisfied with at least some of the results. Just two years ago, after admitting to writing poetry, he said he tended to be embarrassed about showing people what he did apart from songs. "The painting I've been doing for 15 years, but I've never exhibited," he told the Independent on Sunday. "And the poetry - I've only just slipped that out of the closet. It's like, bloody hell: all-singing, all-dancing McCartney, what's he going to do next? No, I'm not out to show the world what I can do. I think I've shown the world enough already."

Or, as he put it last week: "I'm not trying to impress anybody except myself."

The Warhol-like figure to the right of 'Andy in the Garden' (above) appeared on the canvas unintentionally as McCartney painted his Sussex garden. 'The paint makes Andy appear, so it is just a magic moment,' says Sir Paul

'Mr Magritte's Ruler', left, was born out of Sir Paul's admiration for the surrealist artist. He uses an easel and a rule which once belonged to Magritte

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there