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Wife's portrait lands art honour
Amateur artist's wife portrait is showing in London's National Portrait Gallery
Amateur artist Frank Corsham never thought his rushed portrait of his wife Irene would end up in London's National Portrait Gallery but that's what happened.

Frank, 80, only took up painting after he retired from his string of jobs as a hotel manager, but he gained national recognition in the prestigious BP Portrait Award 2007 competition.

After being on display at the National Portrait Gallery, his acrylic study of his wife moved to Newcastle's Laing Art Gallery, where it is on show.

On December 13, it is due to go on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

Frank, who described Irene as 'a sweetie', described how the work accepted for the awards was not his original version.

'I took a photograph when she was sitting on the settee and painted a picture of her. I thought it was lovely,' said Frank, of Dairy Lane Estate, Houghton.

'A friend said it was too much like a photograph, so I did another one and that was the one they accepted.

'I think doing it in a bit of a tizz and a bit of a rush put more life into it.'

Frank said he started sketching as something to do during his retirement and branched out into using pastels and then painting in watercolours, oils and acrylics.

'It's lovely and relaxing. It's only a hobby. I get bored with one thing. I'll do watercolours for six months and then change to oils,' said Frank, who is a member of Hetton Art Club.

He is modest about his winning portrait.

'I really don't think it's different to any other portraits,' he said.

'Irene thought it was great. She was chuffed. I'm very pleased, but it's not made me big-headed.'

Frank said he had been invited to the opening of the exhibition in Edinburgh but he would not be travelling up there because of his age.

Frank and Irene married 15 years ago, five years after both their spouses died. The couple tied the knot at Sunderland Register Office.

Two other North East artists' work is on display at the Laing Art Gallery portraits by Philip Renforth and Neil Nelson, who are both from Northumberland.

Julie Milne, the gallery's curator, said: 'This is an annual competition held by the National Portrait Gallery which has come to be regarded as the most prestigious portrait competition in the world.

'It is open to artists from around the world, so it is a testament to the artistic talent in the region that three North Eastern artists have been selected for this year's exhibition.'

The exhibition features 60 portraits which have been selected by a panel of judges from the record-breaking 1,870 entries received.

Text and image by Johnston Press Digital Publishing

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