THE SITTER'S TALE: Sir Bobby Charlton

The England football legend might be a saint to the game's followers, but he is certain that's not a halo around his head

Interview,Andrew Macpherson
Saturday 11 September 1999 23:02

I'd never had my portrait painted before, and I've never had one painted since. When the National Portrait Gallery contacted me I was enormously flattered. Four or five artists were discussed to begin with. Then it was agreed that this very nice young lad called Peter Edwards would come and paint me, and the whole experience was very enjoyable.

The portrait shows me at home in Cheshire, though it wasn't actually painted there. Peter came and took photographs of various rooms in the house and of views into the garden. Then I sat for him in his studio, and he constructed the whole scene from there. Because I'm abroad so much on business the process took about six months, though the actual sitting time was probably no more than four or five hours. We talked about all sorts of things - politics and so on, but not football. Peter wasn't very interested in football, although he seems to be more interested now. When he's wanted to come and see Manchester United I've arranged tickets for him.

It's a really nice portrait. Nice is probably not the word. It's very striking, and I'm told it's one of the most popular portraits in the gallery. It's certainly an honour to be among so many great names. I don't have a copy at home, but if I'm in London I might take relatives to go and see it. Is that a halo above my head? People might think that, but I think the idea really is to suggest movement. There's a slight blur around my left foot. I didn't have any say in how Peter would portray me, and I didn't want any. It's his view of me, and I'm really delighted with it.

The unveiling was very special. Quite a few of the 1966 World Cup final team came along, and Bobby Moore did the actual unveiling. It was one of the last occasions we were all together before Bobby died.

Peter Edwards's 1991 portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London WC2 (0171 306 0055)

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