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John Sulston

Sir John Sulston
oil on canvas
51 x 51 cm
Pembroke College, Cambridge

Here, Tom Phillips depicts geneticist, and 2002 Nobel Laureate, Sir John Sulston.  Phillips's process is slow, involving many sittings with his subject.  As a result, the portrait is not a record of a particular moment, but rather, according to Phillips, "an amalgam of many moments and states of mind."  He says, "getting a likeness is not the problem: any professional should be able to achieve that in a couple of sessions. The task seems to lie in reconciling a set of possible likenesses into a unity that has the feel of the subject's actually being there." 

Setting Sir John Sulston against a background of the scientist's own notations of the nematode worm (which are in a sense, like the portrait, drawings from life), Phillips has captured the thoughtful exuberance of the renowned champion of the human genome project.

From the National Portrait Gallery catalogue, 2005