It has been a tradition at The Mount School York for many years, for the outgoing Principal to have a portrait painted and be displayed in the School. Currently eight portraits, dating back 120 years, hang in the Esther Tuke room displaying a history of art, changing fashions, styles of painting and framing trends.
The most recent edition to the gallery is a portrait of former Principal Adrienne Richmond, who retired in December following six years at The Mount School. The portrait was completed by local artist and teacher Lucy McElroy. We chatted with Lucy about her painting process, her speciality and her interest in The Mount’s Quaker values.
Lucy was recommended by several Mount families who have previously commissioned Lucy to produce portraits of their daughters.
“I love drawing and painting children and special family relationships. I have a preference for informal portraits which allow me to capture individuals in relaxed and natural poses and I feel that there is something very special about childhood and a child’s ability to live in the moment. For me children are the perfect muses, especially when self-absorb and unselfconscious. I take great joy in observing my own children when they are immersed in play or exploring the natural world. Seeing them lost in their own moments, enjoying being alive with the pure innocence of childhood, highlights the most precious simplicity and beauty. My ambition as an artist is to capture and preserve the beauty I witness in such moments in my work,” explains Lucy.
Lucy has worked as Art teacher for 17 years. Over recent years she has taught part time and developed her own art practice. Her interest is in figurative art, and she especially enjoys portraiture and the challenge of capturing a true likeness of her subject. “It’s such a rewarding experience seeing the face come alive on the canvas.”
Lucy was delighted to be commissioned to produce the Principal Portrait and began by coming to view the previous paintings. “The paintings are so wonderful. I am delighted that my work will join such a fabulous collection of paintings of previous head teachers. I love how the collection is a slice of the history of art and of fashion too.”
At the start of the process Lucy met with Ms Richmond to find out more about her and her preferred style, she then took several photos of Ms Richmond to work from. “I really enjoyed the photoshoot with Adrienne and was inspired to hear her speak about the type of role model she has aspired to be for the girls and the importance she places on developing the whole person. I feel so privileged to have been asked to capture her likeness and to create an image by which she will be remembered for a long time by so many.”
When accepting the commission the Quaker ethos of The Mount School particularly appealed to Lucy. “As an attender at Acomb Quaker meeting I am interested in the history of The Mount School and the Quaker testimonies reflected in the ethos are close to my heart. The values, especially of simplicity and truth underpin my choice to be an artist and how I look to develop my art practice.”
From the photographs Lucy then produced a wonderful 40cm x 50cm oil painting on linen, which was unveiled to the School in Ms Richmond’s final week in December.
“Lucy has done a fantastic job,” commented Adrienne Richmond. “It is truly an honour to be portrayed in the company of the custodians who came before me.”
“I am so very pleased that Adrienne is happy with her portrait. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to be asked to make it for The Mount School and I have hugely enjoyed the whole experience,” added Lucy.