Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Hilary Mantel is the only living writer to have her painting on display at the British Library. The new work by painter Nick Lord attempts to portray Mantel as active and strong, in contrast to more “passive” depictions of women.
Mantel said of the portrait, "I wanted it to have a bit of force behind it. I didn't want to look as if I was just sitting, contemplating the daffodils, but as though I might have an impact in the world.”
“The whole issue of women in public life and their image; so often in history, women have been passive recipients of an artist's gaze or a camera's gaze. We are moving into an era where this has to be renegotiated,” she said.
Mantel also said that the experience of sitting for a portrait would be helpful to her own work. She is now writing the last book of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, “The Mirror and The Light”, which is due out next year. The book features portrait artist Hans Holbein, whose character could be influenced by Lord and Mantel’s collaboration.
"The painter Hans Holbein is a continuing character, and the story of Cromwell's portrait continues through the three books and it is obviously something I have thought about before,” she told BBC News.
"You realize how interesting the relationship can be between the painter and the sitter and how much is being negotiated," she added.
Lord won the commission to paint Mantel after being named Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, running against more than 2,000 other painters.
The portrait will be on display at the British Library on February 24.