Sir Terry Frost, 2001 by Neil Shawcross (b. 1940). Courtesy Ulster Museum.
Forty years of Portrait Painting is an exhibition of work by Neil Shawcross and is on display at Belfast’s Ulster Museum until April 23 2006.
Despite being born in Lancashire, through his work at Belfast College of Art Shawcross has become one of the best-known and most popular painters in the north of Ireland.
His varied subject matter takes in the female nude, flowers and still life, but since 2001 he has worked predominantly in portraiture which, in his own words, is "what he was made for".
Born in Kearsley in 1940, Shawcross studied art at colleges in Bolton and Lancaster and in 1962 moved to Belfast where he became a part-time lecturer at Belfast College of Art.
In 1968 his post was made full-time and he spent all his working life at the college, which became part of the University of Ulster in 1984. He was elected an associate of the Royal Ulster Academy of Art in 1975 and was made a full Academician in 1977.
Shawcross retired in 2004, with a reputation as an inspirational teacher, who’d also been involved in children’s art education for many years.
His portrait style is distinct in its simplicity and tends to feature the sitter, depicted in extremely thin wash-like oils, positioned as if on an empty stage.
Another, less obvious, characteristic is his need for a personal link with the sitter. He needs the person to inspire him, which is why has accepted very few commissions.
Many of the portraits on show at Ulster Museum have previously been exhibited as individual works, but this is the first time they have been shown as a group.
According to museum staff, seen together they form "a fascinating record of the work of one of the north’s most distinctive portrait painters".