Belfast Telegraph

Seamus Heaney: Portrait of a genius with sparkle in his eye to be unveiled

BY MARGARET CANNING

Seamus Heaney was due to travel to Queen's University next Tuesday for the unveiling of what would be the final portrait of him.

Artist Colin Davidson, whose paintings of Northern Ireland's artistic greats hang in The Lyric Theatre, had the honour of capturing the poet and the "sparkle in his eye" for the last time.

He travelled to Dublin at the beginning of this year to meet Heaney before beginning work.

The poet had shown his characteristic humility and good nature during their meeting, Mr Davidson said. "He was incredibly warm, welcoming and humble. A very generous man and very encouraging about the work." In the mass of wrinkles and crevices of the poet's unmistakable face, Mr Davidson said he found the landscapes which were immortalised in Heaney's poetry.

"When the painting is done on such a scale, there is opportunity to explore elements of landscape in a subject's face," he said.

"There was almost a feeling of excavating and chiselling the face."

Mr Davidson, who has also painted playwright Brian Friel and is currently working on a portrait of Kenneth Branagh, said he didn't get the impression of physical frailty in his subject.

"I was aware of his age and his recent illnesses, but the sparkle in his eye was still there," he said.

Earlier this year, Mr Davidson showed the portrait to Seamus and his wife Marie. "He was really quite moved by it and quite touched. He really felt it reflected him on so many levels," he said.

He added that the poet was due to attend an exhibition by Mr Davidson in the Naughton Gallery at Queen's next Tuesday, where the portrait would be on show for the first time in Northern Ireland.

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