Adam Birtwistle


Born in 1959 in Eton, Adam Birtwistle is an internationally acclaimed artist best known for his portraits. Birtwistle studied sculpture at the Chelsea School of Art and went on to spend two years at the Arch Bronze Foundry. In 1986, Birtwistle attended printing classes at the Royal Academy whilst preparing his first solo exhibition with Piano Nobile Gallery.

Two of Birtwistle's portraits have been purchased by the National Portrait Gallery: a portrait of his father, the composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and another of the musician Elvis Costello. In 2000, Birtwistle was commissioned by Glyndebourne Festival to paint portraits of six composers: Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Janáček, Britten and his father. Birtwistle was subsequently commissioned by Glyndebourne to paint Sir Peter Hall, David Hockney RA, Anja Silja, Sir George and Lady Christie and Peter Sellars for their permanent collection.

In 2002, Birtwistle held his first exhibition in New York to critical acclaim, with work purchased by private and museum collections. In the same year, he was commissioned to paint Michael Hopkins, Dame Marjorie Scardino, Dr Peter Harper, Flannery O'Conner and Ian Albery. Birtwistle's portfolio has continued to be studded with composers and conductors of note with recent additions including the Hungarian composer Modest Mussorgsky and Russian conductor Genari Rozhdesvensky. Birtwistle's Self Portrait was acquired by the Collection in 2013 and he has continued to show his works at Piano Nobile Gallery in London.

Birtwistle is known for his playful idiosyncratic painting style. His portraits cut through the status of his subjects, capturing the essence of the person beneath with his wry and humours brushstrokes. Dr Charles Saumarez Smith, chief executive of the Royal Academy and former director of the National Gallery has described Birtwistle as 'one of the best of his generation'. Likewise, Lord Gowrie lauded Birtwistle as an artist who 'brings off something uncommon and difficult. He is a serious painter with wit. This quality shows in both composition and brushwork'

In Birtwistle's self-portrait, he is subject to his own idiosyncratic wit. Birtwistle's figure emerges from a dark gouache background as though illuminated, his hair ruffled and voluminous, as Birtwistle looks sternly out at his viewer.