From film to canvas, England's rugby triumph captured

At first glance it looks like the famous photograph - the heart-stopping moment when Jonny Wilkinson drop-kicked England to World Cup victory. But this image did not appear through the lens of a camera - it was painstakingly created by the brush of Darren Baker, a 27-year-old Yorkshire painter. Working in pastels and oils, Mr Baker applies the techniques of the 17th-century Old Masters to resolutely contemporary subjects. His paintings are collected on both sides of the Atlantic and his portraits of the Prince of Wales and Tony Blair hang in St James's Palace and 10 Downing Street.

One of Mr Baker's first commissions was a portrait of the Leeds United player Billy Bremner. Scenting a commercial opportunity, he sent an unsolicited portrait to Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association. Mr Baker is now the PFA's official artist, with commissions to paint their top players. Other subjects include the boxer Prince Naseem Hamed, and the jockey Frankie Dettori.

The Jonny Wilkinson kickgets its first public airing at the Halycon Gallery in London this month.

Mr Baker, who lives and works in Saltaire, cites Rembrandt or Velasquez as major influences. Despite finding himself at odds with Brit Art's world of unmade beds and dissected wildlife, his paintings sell for up to £5,000.

"I suppose it's the nature of art to be ground-breaking and radical. But this kind of art ... will always have a place. I just think a lot of people don't realise that it's out there," he says.

Mr Baker says he hardly ever gets to meet the sporting heroes who figure in so much of his work. "You don't get near them. It's all photos," he says.

For all their realism, there is something verging on the ethereal about the pictures. "It's the chiaroscuro. Light and dark," he explains. "It gives a presence to paintings, and a depth. It gives them a different quality to photographs."

And a slightly different content. Matt Dunning, the Australian prop wearing the headband, was ruled out of the recreated scene. Even in the world of hyper-realistic paintings, it seems there is still room for some artistic licence.

'England's Winning Goal' will be at the Halycon Gallery, Bruton Street, London W1 from today until 27 March

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