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People's Portraits Reception

People viewing a portrait

We were delighted that during this year’s reception not one but two new portraits were added to the unique collection of People's Portraits, housed at Girton on a long term loan from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Followed by a talk by our guest speaker Dr David Dibosa who spoke about the significance of the everyday in modern art - from Courbet’s genre paintings to Duchamp’s ready-mades and Andy Warhol’s soup cans.

Two Portraits were donated in this event. The 61st portrait 'Vanitas' by Miriam Escofet RP and the 62nd 'Rebecca Hawkins' by Dr Leonard McComb RA. More information about the artist and speaker can be found below. 

Miriam Escofet and Vanitas Rebecca Hawkins by Leonard McComb
Vanitas by Miriam Escofet Rebecca Hawkins by Leonard McComb


Miriam Escofet RP

Miriam’s work has evolved over the years through many themes and ideas, including still life, architecture and perspective, allegory, imaginary composition and most recently portraiture. But the unifying passion in all her paintings is describing a sense of space, volume, atmosphere, and detail, arriving at a kind of hyper real expression of the subject matter.

She is very interested in making, process and technique. Miriam studied 3D Design at art school and worked in clay for a few years before settling full time on painting. Her work is classically inspired and the journey to a painting can be very multi-disciplinary, often involving the construction of props, dioramas or elaborate maquettes, as well the use of perspective.

Miriam paint mainly in oils, although she also explores other media.  Her technique is extremely detailed, applying many layers and glazes to achieve a sense of space, mood and character. An oil painting can take months to finish.

For Miriam paintings act as portals – worlds one can visually step into and be transported and sometimes even transformed by. She believes the primary function of art is to trigger a moment of transcendence in the viewer, in short to fill one with wonder.

For the past decade or so portraiture has become the main theme of her work, from commissions to more personal work where she explores allegorical themes.

In 2018 Miriam was awarded the 1st Prize in the BP Portrait Award for her work  ‘An Angel at my Table’ a portrait that aimed to be a very personal depiction of her mother whilst at the same time trying to convey a sense of the ‘Universal Mother'
In 2019 she was commissioned to paint a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office
In 2020 Miriam was elected a Member of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters


Dr Leonard McComb RA, HONRP, HONRWS (1930-2018)

Dr Leonard McComb RA was a draughtsman, painter, sculptor, print maker, mosaic, and tapestry designer.

His work was determined by his feeling for the detail in nature, in this respect all his works were portraits, taking into consideration that all nature’s shapes are asymmetrical abstractions after nature. Another of his concerns was for the internal energy of nature’s forms and how they radiate light and colour. 

McComb was a versatile artist who celebrated working in various media and was unusual amongst his contemporaries in being represented in the Tate collection by watercolours, oil paintings, prints and sculptures. His sculpture Young Man Standing, also known as the Golden Man (Tate), was the subject of national controversy when McComb, supported by the art fraternity, withdrew it from exhibition in Lincoln Cathedral after the Dean placed a cloth around its midriff. Soon afterwards, the Tate purchased the statue, such was its prominence within the art world.

Among McComb’s many awards are the Royal Academy’s Jubilee Award (1977); Korn Ferry Award (1990); Times Watercolour Prize (1992 and 1993); Nordstern Print Prize (1997); and the RWS Prize (1998). McComb had received many major commissions for private and corporate collections throughout the UK, Europe and the USA. In 1999 he completed a commissioned portrait of the novelist Doris Lessing for the National Portrait Gallery, London. The following year he was selected by the Vatican to design a Jubilee Medal, featuring Pope John Paul II and the late Archbishop Basil Hume, for the worldwide series to commemorate the Millennium.

McComb was elected Royal Academician in 1991 (ARA 1987) and in 1995 was elected Keeper of the Royal Academy, placing him in charge of the Royal Academy Schools until 1998. He was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of Print-makers in 1996. McComb lived and worked in London until his death in 2018.


Dr David Dibosa’s Bio

Dr David Dibosa (Law, 1986) is Director of Research and Interpretation at Tate where he leads the development of a thriving research community within and beyond the organisation. David also supports Tate’s interpretation team in engaging audiences in the galleries as well as online. He is a key representative of Tate across the museum and academic sectors.

Prior to this role, David was Reader of Museology at University of the Arts London, having taught at universities in London for more than twenty years and regularly lecturing around the world.  He is co-author of Post-Critical Museology: Theory and Practice in the Art Museum (Routledge, 2013). He trained as a curator, after receiving his first degree from Girton College, Cambridge. He was awarded his PhD in Art History from Goldsmiths College, University of London. 

David is Chair of Trustees at the Whitechapel Art Gallery alongside being a Trustee of Art Fund. David’s television appearances include BBC One’s Big Painting Challenge, in which he was a judge. He is also currently a presenter for Art on the BBC, showing on BBC 4.