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Brian Eno

Brian Eno
oil on canvas
30.2 x 25.4 cm
1984-85
National Portrait Gallery

Brian Eno
oil on canvas
35.6 x 25.4 cm
1984-85
collection: the artist

Brian Eno
oil on canvas
26.7 x 19.1 cm
1984-85
National Portrait Gallery

I once devised a television project whose abbreviated ghost now forms, not inappropriately, an introduction to the film I worked on with Jake Auerbach (Artist's Eye: Tom Phillips, BBC2 1989). The title was to be Raphael to Eno: it traced the lineage of pupil and teacher back through Frank Auerbach, Bomberg, Sickert etc. until, after an obscure group of French Peintres du Roy, it emerged via Primaticcio into the light of Raphael. Thus I find that at only twenty removes I am a pupil of Raphael. Brian Eno as a student of mine (initially at Ipswich in the early sixties) therefore continues that strange genealogy of influence as the twenty-first.

Brian surfaces in my life every now and then only to disappear once more into the mists of fame. Some time ago he produced the first complete recording of my opera, Irma. Then, most recently, after talking about how to make Raphael to Eno we planned a portrait in which this lineage would be neatly paraphrased by painting him sitting in front of my own picture After Raphael, which he himself had paraphrased for the cover of his record, Another Green World. Thus he and I and Raphael would be present with possibilities of introducing allusions to other painters on that list.

While painting these three studies, which represent seven or eight sittings, I prepared a large version of After Raphael to hang behind him. No sooner was the picture ready than Brian vanished once more, the only sitter to have disappeared in front of a background.

In one of the studies he is seen (since he is sitting in the chair occupied on other days by Iris Murdoch and Michael Kustow) as yet another trapped in the context of Titian's Flaying of Marsyas. As Iris took the place of the goat-footed poet and wild piper Marsyas, and Michael the place of the king who judged right when he should have judged wrong, Midas, so with apposite logic Brian had to appear in front of the man whose music made the stones dance and who ended up as a singing head floating on the water, Orpheus.

In an unpredictable world I may yet paint the picture I planned to make, perhaps when Brian Eno reads this...

The Portrait Works (1989),  p. 44-45

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