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Monty Python

Five Ex-Pythons, One Ex-Person, & A Parrot (Deceased)
oil on board
119.5 x 98 cm
private collection

"An artist obsessed with ideas and words and their myriad permutations through the visual imagery of his painting, Tom Phillips is also passionate about the other people who originate those words and ideas and enjoys the ‘sustained intimacy’ of portrait sittings.

"The difficulty of re-assembling the group of actors, writers, directors and artists who together created Monty Pythons Flying Circus, a major cultural and social landmark not only in British television but in the fabric of British life between 1969 and 1974, took Phillips back to the polyptych for what is in essence a memorial tribute.

"Each head is painted from a watercolour portrait from life, their identities and that of the artist concealed beneath typical Phillips anagrams. Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin were completed first, and the portrait of Graham Chapman (bottom left with dusty halo) was painfully achieved during his final illness.

"Even the deceased parrot (a reference to the team’s most celebrated and surreal sketch) lends, after the initial smile of recognition, an air of gloom to the proceedings."

From the catalogue of The Portrait Now, a 1993-94 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery; written by Robin Gibson.