Tribute Portrait of Robert Hardy
I was introduced to Robert Hardy by Bowyer Chris Boyton after expressing my admiration for him as an archer and Longbow authority. Chris was making him a very special longbow at the time and Robert was especially pleased with it. Warm, friendly and charming on the telephone he invited me down to his home in the heart of England for a sitting to do his portrait..
I was warmly welcomed and presented him with a gift of Lincolnshire sausages, which was followed by a cup of tea and a conducted tour of his house, showing me the special souvenirs of his life as actor, writer and archer, before sitting down to work.
Robert, (his first name is Timothy and his close friends know him as Tim,) posed with a Mary Rose style longbow over his shoulder holding it with a white cloth which I had to ignore in the drawing. He wears a distinctive ring which was important to him but he did not explain why, and I didn’t ask but included it in the finished portrait, which pleased him.
Expressions of an Actor
He was a most accommodating sitter, but not the most patient and was in and out of various stages of concentration and boredom, interspersed with irritation; a normal reaction. When I am doing the preliminary sketches we talk of cabbages and kings, but mainly about both our jobs and his view was that Artist and Actor are both about entertainment of the public at large. I didn’t agree and later we corresponded on this subject, Tim wrote to me in his elegant handwriting and the letters I shall now treasure.
At first I had difficulty finding his true character and had various restarts. Then the penny dropped, so I stopped and said, “Tim, will you please knock it off!” He laughed like a drain. Actors are very good at hiding their characters and Tim is a master of ‘closeup emotion’. Conveying deep emotion with a single thought; lesser actors are ‘back of the theatre ‘.
He was adopting different expressions and playing with me; first he was Churchill, then Siegfried, then someone dark, (he was reptilian when doing evil, you should see the Sherlock Holmes episode) but when I rumbled him, he laughed and settled down to a slightly mischievous expression which you can see captured in the final portrait.
Anecdotes of Robert (Longbow) Hardy
For me he is Siegfried and this I expressed, he said that the role had fallen easier to him than most and I was entertained with anecdotes that I will treasure. He was proudest of his role as Churchill and played him 7 times, he also played Roosevelt too. The Churchill family had recently presented him with a private photograph in appreciation of his role. They heard his voice as the great man reborn which is quite an accolade.
Sight is my most precious gift and I told him that if I did lose it I would like to have his and Fenella Fielding’s voices in my world of darkness, he laughed and said he would tell her when next he saw her. We covered the acting profession, archery of course and our shared views on many subjects, from asparagus to MG cars. This was an erudite man, a prodigy of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, multi talented and an extremely good artist.
Lunch was his treat at the pub where he shone and starred and before resuming work he drew my longbow with a perfect pose which will stay imprinted in my mind. Warm goodbyes and thanks. He was most charming and when I traveled down again to unveil the portrait I was greeted like an old friend.
Unveiling the Final Portrait
At the unveiling (where I closely watch the reaction with trepidation) he said, “Oh, that is very clever” which I will treasure, then came in the vanity, (he is an actor after all) and he said he thought he looked a little more….’foxy’. So I took some of the white from his hair out. This from a 90 year old!
I asked what we should do with the portrait and he generously gave me free reign to do as I wished. This means I can have a limited print made available to share with his friends and admirers, for them to see him as he wished to be seen… ‘Foxy’!
Robert Hardy inspired in a very special way the revival of the modern longbow culture, this was mentioned in some detail by Mike Loades in his obituary of Robert Hardy. .
I have been asked many times for copies of the portrait and it seems that now is the right and proper time to make them available as a way to remember this remarkable man, the Actor, Writer and of course, … as an English Archer.
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