Model discipline captured on canvas

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The Independent Online

They might have been at the crease awaiting the bowler, so motionless were they. In fact, Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart were giving their impression of still life to allow the artist Andy Pankhurst time to make the necessary notes needed for his portraits of the two Englishmen who both play in their 100th Test against the West Indies at Old Trafford tomorrow.

They might have been at the crease awaiting the bowler, so motionless were they. In fact, Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart were giving their impression of still life to allow the artist Andy Pankhurst time to make the necessary notes needed for his portraits of the two Englishmen who both play in their 100th Test against the West Indies at Old Trafford tomorrow.

There were two sessions for each player on the balcony of the home dressing-room at Lord's: Atherton, last October, Stewart in March. Each time the subjects obliged Pankhurst by remaining relatively immobile for a couple of hours at a time.

"We had a break for lunch," said Pankhurst, 32, "but Michael's sitting was around four hours each time. Alec's was around three. They were brilliant models. They did not move. They were so strong, absolutely rigid. Their discipline was fantastic."

Pankhurst, who teaches life drawing and life painting at the Slade School of Art in London, explained: "I am not really a portrait painter, so I regarded the commission as an artistic challenge. I had positioned them against the light, so they were in partial silhouette, which made the technical side of it interesting."

Atherton and Stewart are the first sportspeople to have been painted by Pankhurst, who works out of a studio in Hackney, in London's East End. "I am not a cricket person," he confessed, "and I did not know what to expect."

Neither did the players. "They were relaxed throughout and both chatted to me during the sittings. I got to like them both very much."

Their interest was markedly different. Stewart wanted to know about the mechanics of painting. "At one point I was mixing up some colours to create violet and he asked me where that was going. I told him it was for his shirt. He pointed out his shirt was white, but I showed him the effect of the light on the white of the railings on the balcony. He appeared to be fascinated by it all."

Atherton adopted a broader approach. "He told me he is interested in painting and said he was upset to have missed the recent Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery. He told me that when he is on tour he makes a point of visiting museums and art galleries. I told him he knew more about art than I knew about cricket."

Since completing the portraits Pankhurst has not spoken to either player. He said: "I do not know what their reaction has been. One of my professors did tell me he thought there was a gladiatorial air to the portraits.

"I wondered about that until I attended the final of the Triangular tournament between England and Zimbabwe last month. I had never been to a cricket match before, and I thought Lord's was just like an arena in Roman times."

Centurions or gladiators, these two masters of the art of batting now have to show there is still life in their careers as they resume the battle against the West Indies.

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