Meet the man behind some of Belgravia and Kensington and Chelsea’s most famous bronze portraits, Bryan Ellery
From placid English aristocrats to boisterous Chinese shipbuilders, artist Bryan Ellery has portrayed a fascinating array of personalities from around the world, always insisting that the sculpting should be done in their own homes where he says, “They tend to be more themselves”, before adding, “I also get to see the world!”
Various central London residents have sat for him. For example, the late Andrew Dalton, one time Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea, and the Earl of Gowrie (pictured here) who, Bryan remembers, kept on a bow tie at all times, and loved listening to Maria Callas at high volume.
Bryan’s sculpting career had an inauspicious start, when at the age of seven, he built a caricature of his headmaster in clay, for which he received three strokes of the cane. But, later at Exeter University, he gained a better response when he produced a prize-winning bronze of his professor, Moelwyn Merchant, a copy of which is now in Eton College library. Moving on to Exeter Art College, Bryan abandoned what he felt was ‘too traditional’ portraiture, becoming intoxicated by the spirit of the sixties, even joining a rock band, moving to Italy, teaching at Urbino University and putting on sculpture shows exhibiting what he describes as ‘English Pop’.
But as the years went by, the lure of ‘the face’ once again became paramount and he returned to his favourite occupation.
“Making a portrait of another human being is the greatest privilege imaginable to me,” he tells me frankly. Indeed, it’s Bryan’s skill of being able to capture someone’s real uniqueness that makes his work stand out.
Ever the modest man, he tells me: “Portraiture is such a frightening challenge. I’m insecure enough in front of each new face to wonder whether, in each and every case, I will succeed.”
Over many years he has donated his portrait skills to help charity drives in London schools, such as The Garden School in Belgravia, and Thomas’ in Kensington and comments, “It always provides quite a large sum for the charity,” and often, he adds wryly, “a follow-on commission for myself!”
So many faces, so many characters and so many places, make Bryan Ellery a fascinating man – and his work even more so.