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John Gielgud

Sir John Gielgud
34 x 43.2 cm
private collection

While I have been directing (in association with Peter Greenaway) the first eight cantos of a TV DANTE I have looked at the face of Sir John Gielgud for as long as I have looked at any portrait sitter, both while he rehearsed and read the part of Virgil and then again day after day as we edited the series. Since Sir John is always in the same position, I have extensive tapes of him with the same small variations of movement that occur in normal sittings. Playing these with the aid of the Pause control on my unsophisticated video I never light on the same frame twice, just as when looking up at the model while painting I find each time the expression of the sitter has subtly changed and that there is a slightly different inclination on the head. Since my TV, after each few minutes of pause, reverts to whatever is being broadcast at the time this is an excellent activity to indulge in on the day of a Test Match or of Wimbledon when stolen guilt-free glimpses of play can be enjoyed.

I retained the TV format to acknowledge the source. The procedure might provide a solution to the elusiveness of some sitters in that I could film a session and review it infinitely.

The Portrait Works (1989),  p. 67