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Press release

  • 28 July 2008

Lord Attenborough presented with portrait at farewell party

Picture credit: Andrew Hasson

A new portrait of Lord Attenborough by renowned British artist Bryan Organ was unveiled for the first time at a farewell party for the University of Sussex's Chancellor on Friday (July 25).

Hundreds of members of staff and guests, including actor Sir Ben Kingsley and Lord Attenborough's actress wife Sheila Sim, attended the event at the Dome for Lord Attenborough, who stepped down after ten years as the University's Chancellor.

Among those paying tribute to the Oscar-winning actor and director on stage were the University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing, his predecessor Professor Alasdair Smith, Chairman of the University's Council Simon Fanshawe, Lord Attenborough's son Michael Attenborough and Sir Ben Kingsley.

The painting, a 42 x 46-inch acrylic on canvas, was presented after speeches and a film-clip compilation of Lord Attenborough's most memorable films, such as Brighton Rock, Dr Doolittle and Ghandi.

The evening ended with Lord Attenborough giving thanks to the University for the pleasure and honour of being Chancellor, followed by a sing-a-long of "Goodbye-ee," one of the most famous numbers from his musical Oh! What a Lovely War.

Speaking before the unveiling, Bryan Organ said that it was the fourth portrait he had completed of his old friend. "We go back 30 years," he said. "We're both from Leicester and I first painted him for Leicester Museum and Art Gallery in 1982, then for Leicester University's Attenborough Centre and then for RADA, where he was President. We have developed a close working relationship and understanding.

"The challenge for me, was to present a fresh view of Lord Attenborough. I wanted it to look as though he were on stage, talking to the students at a degree congregation. So we have a very low eye level and as always he is very explicit with his hands."

Lord Attenborough's Chancellor's gown is also significant in that it adds to the theatrical quality of the painting (which is appropriate in this case).

Bryan Organ, who trained at Leicester College of Art and still lives in Leicestershire, completed the work at his London studio where Lord Attenborough attended sittings.

This is Bryan Organ's second commission for the University of Sussex: his portrait of Lord Shawcross - a former Chancellor and one of the University's founders - now hangs in the University's library. The portrait of Lord Attenborough will also stay with the University, to be hung in the Gardner Centre after its refurbishment.

Several of Bryan Organ's works now hang in the National Portrait Gallery in London, including Royal portraits of Prince Charles, the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Diana. Other subjects include former Prime Minister James Callaghan, musician Elton John, jockey Lester Piggott and fashion designer Mary Quant.

Notes for editors

For further information, interviews and photographs, contact the University of Sussex Press office: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel 01273 678 888 or email

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