Art student’s portrait fit for a Duke

Former Brentwood School art student Emily Pye has had her likeness of the Duke of Westminster, one of Britain’s richest men, endorsed by the man himself.

Eighteen-year-old Emily’s triptych of portraits was created as part of her exam exhibition for the International Baccalaureate Visual Art Diploma. Her work was so good, she was awarded a Grade 7, the highest grade possible, and received the School’s 2015 IB Prize.

Her stunning artwork has now caught the attention of the 6th Duke of Westminster, Major General Gerald Grosvenor, who was ‘most touched’ by her paintings. In a written letter, the Duke, a billionaire, landowner, peer, businessman, and former Territorial Army officer in the British Army, congratulated Emily on her portrait and wished her every success in her studies at the University College London.

Emily, who was working to a theme of wealth and poverty, painted three portraits of the Duke with the thickness of paint increasing in each portrait denoting the subject’s growing wealth and power. 

Head of Art, Mr Daniel McAuliffe, explained; “Emily was referencing how portraiture has historically been an art form that only the wealthy and powerful in society would be included in. Emily used oil paint which also has historical connotations to Fine Art. In the final portrait the paint has been used in an impasto style, the thicker the paint the more expensive that portrait would be.
“Emily’s paintings demonstrate real skill and refinement. Her work is both striking, powerful, and conceptually mature, making historical reference to the importance of portraiture.”

The series of paintings took Emily about a month and a half to complete, although the first portrait took the most time. She explained: “I chose the Duke primarily for his wealth, as one of the richest men in the UK he fitted well with my project, also his elevated position in society. Plus I felt that I would be able to capture the features of his face.”

Emily said her Psychology study at UCL didn’t allow too much spare time for oil painting which was time consuming. She said: “I still do the occasional sketch and have art materials in my uni room if I do find I have a spare afternoon.”