Monday, July 13, 2015

Philip Core Paints Roger Rees as Hamlet

I am a huge fan of The West Wing (and in my mind every time I say that, the word 'huge' sounds just like President Bartlett says it when throwing a strop "he was a yooge contributor... a yooge contributor" - yes, I'm that kind of fan!), and it was through his comic turn as the British Ambassador Lord John Marbury in The West Wing that I knew and appreciated Roger Rees whose obituaries you will have been reading in the last few days. He was, of course, much more than a 'comic turn' and I would urge you to read some of those obituaries and get a sense of a quite remarkable actor who perhaps never quite found the acclaim he deserved. 

My other interest in Rees came much more recently. You might have picked up from the blog here that I am doing some biographical research into an artist called Philip Core and there are at least two pieces of art by Core in which Rees features. In 1984 Rees was the lead in the RSC's Hamlet and Core was commissioned to paint the poster. At this stage in my research I haven't seen the poster but I am assuming it might be the same image as used on the front of the program (above), that I bought recently. There is another image though, less likely to have been part of the official commission (below) titled "Around Hamlet: Roger Rees" in which a naked Rees, holding the iconic skull, is painted repeatedly from various angles. It is reproduced in the Gay Mens' Press edition of Core's paintings and is there dated 1984 and is clearly not an insubstantial work at nearly two metres across. I know that Core sometimes painted portraits from photographs and sometimes from life, but this has the air of an image painted from life and I had, at the beginning of the year, been very much looking forward to contacting Rees's agent to ask if he could tell me anything about the painting. Sadly, of course, that opportunity has passed with Roger Rees, by all accounts a vibrant and passionate man with a skill on the stage second to none.

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