Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland artist reveals stunning Paisley, McGuinness portraits

Colin Davidson In his studio with some of his work
Colin Davidson In his studio with some of his work

Belfast artist Colin Davidson has revealed his portraits of the late Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness and how he insisted they be displayed side-by-side.

Davidson is one of the leading artists of his generation.

His career, since he first lifted a paint brush at the age of seven, has seen him take on the likes of the Queen, Bill Clinton, John Hume, Seamus Heaney, Liam Neeson, Brad Pitt and Ed Sheeran.

For the portraits of the former first and deputy first ministers he said they sat for him in 2014 and 2015, " each displaying a genuine affection for the other.

"I stipulated that their portraits would only be hung together. They agreed."

Speaking to the BBC he said there was a "divisiveness" creeping into Northern Ireland politics and a cooling of the warmth that existed when the two held power which was cause for "great concern".

He revealed to the Belfast Telegraph he had painted the late Lord Bannside during an interview in 2014.

"We had a brilliant day and got on very well," he said adding he hoped to paint McGuinness later that year.

“It will be interesting to have painted two men who have had important roles in the peace process here.”

Born in south Belfast in 1968, the son of Rowland Davidson, one of Ireland's best-known figurative painters, he was educated at Methodist College and the University of Ulster College of Art — where he graduated in 1991 with a first class honours degree in graphic design.

He first came to the wider public's attention with a stunning collection of Belfast cityscapes, a theme he then pursued in Dublin, London and Chicago.

Since 2010, he has been drawing and painting large-scale head portraits of well-known people from the Irish and UK arts community, including a series of paintings that hang in the foyer of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

As sworn enemies for decades Paisley and McGuinness set aside their differences to share power in 2007. They became friends and both remained close up until the DUP founder's death in 2014. Martin McGuinness died in 2017

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