Bishop Emery




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The Right Reverend Anthony Emery
Bishop of Portsmouth

A Portrait Deconstruction and Restoration on canvas for modern time.

Creating a portrait of Bishop Emery, the sixth Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth (1976-1988), was a most memorable journey.

Anthony Emery, a notable figure in the church’s history, left an indelible mark during his tenure. He studied for the priesthood at St Mary’s College, Oscott, and in 1953 was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Birmingham. In 1976, he assumed the position of Bishop of Portsmouth, where he maintained his profound and gentle influence until his passing in 1988

Solid Foundations

The commission’s focal point was to depict Bishop Emery against the backdrop of Portsmouth Cathedral, during his time of service. Today, the cathedral is very different from over thirty years ago. Therefore a collection of reference materials, from that time, was necessary to draw information on which to paint from.

During a visit by the late Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, a single photograph of Bishop Emery was taken at the cathedral by Dr. Dominic Fontana PhD, FRGS, FSA.

Although there were details in the original photo, the natural workings of a camera’s depth of field caused sections in the background to blur. As a result, I had to meticulously gather clearer references from various sources. Dr Fontana’s photograph, however served as a wonderful foundation on which to build upon, aiding to the painting’s historical accuracy.

Due to timeframe, I chose to paint in acrylic. My initial sketches position Bishop Emery on a backdrop of the cathedral’s architectural nuances, different to that of the photo. The depiction aimed to transport viewers back to Bishop Emery’s era, requiring extra attention to historical details. Merging his presence with an already evolved cathedral, I had to bridge the past to the present before taking the present back to the past!

With the buildup of every brushstoke, I would reflect on Bishop Emery’s essence and likeness. His leadership and the spiritual significance of the cathedral were core to his being. Delicately, I infused reverence for this legacy, creating a visual narrative that resonated with the faithful and those who knew him best.

Three Bishops

The painting was warmly received by Reverend Philip Egan, Eighth Bishop of Portsmouth, Cannon PJ and the Cathedral family. I chose to position his cross at absolute centre on the canvas. The artwork not only encapsulates his gentle leadership but also highlights the centrality of Portsmouth Cathedral to his soul. The growth of faith, the important pillars of community, were very important to him.

Bishop Anthony Emery now hangs left to Bishop Hollis’ portrait (completed in 2007). Both flanking a doorway to the main halls, both mirroring each other. Emery stands at the back of the Cathedral, Hollis to the front. The crucifix that hangs at the rear of the Cathedral in Bishop Hollis’ painting is the same cross that features above the altar in Bishop Emery’s. Little details like this are easy to miss but add depth to a painting once they are discovered.

The commission was a blend of historical reverence and artistic skill. References dotted around the cathedral were meticulously gathered. Conversations with priests from the era, together with Dominic Fontana’s single photograph, were all pieces of a jigsaw that helped ensure an accurate portrayal.

I hope Bishop Emery’s kindness, gentle presence and love for the cathedral has been given new life in the beautiful architecture from once upon a time. 

My thanks to Bishop Egan, the wonderful Canon PJ, Canon David Hopgood, Mr Fontana and Friends of the Cathedral. Their patience and time helped to bring this painting to light.

A portrait of Bishop Emery

A Portrait of Bishop Emery – Sixth Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth
Referenced, with kind permission, from a photo by Dr Dominic Fontana
Acrylic on hand-built canvas – 42 x 34in – Varnished

Framing by Lee Taylor from Taylor Made Frames
Look closely and you will see Bishop Emery sitting next to a Banksy! Both about to ‘Exit The Frame Shop’ …separately! 

A Visual Diary

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