The National Portrait Gallery has commissioned a new portrait of one of Britain’s best known writers, Zadie Smith by Nigerian-born artist, Toyin Ojih Odutola.
The full-length portrait, which joins the Gallery’s Collection, is available to view online on the Gallery website, alongside an interview with Smith and Ojih Odutola by Katy Hessel, art historian and founder of The Great Women Artists Instagram account. The portrait was on public display in the Brent Museum and Archive, where Smith grew up in, in December 2020 as part of Brent 2020, London Borough of Culture.
Ojih Odutola is, in Smith’s words, the “central light in a thrilling new generation of black artists.” In her portrait of Smith she has included a range of subtle details. Shapes and shadows evoke palm trees which reference Smith’s Jamaican heritage and a large map of North West London is in the background. Ojih Odutola chose the title, “Sadie,” to signify the foundations of Smith’s life, as a woman from North West London with firm roots in Jamaica and England. She is drawn in a relaxed pose, donning her natural hair, to show an assured, talented woman on her own terms.
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