I received a postcard from Sir M. P. asking me to come to his house in Newmarket. He had commissioned me to make a number of paintings for him over the years. I expected to be asked to paint one of the horses he trains. Instead he surprised me by asking me to paint his portrait. I was very flattered and I spent considerable time on subsequent visits listening to the fascinating stories about his life while I drew and photographed him for the portrait.
He is a great collector. One large room, a gallery in fact, houses his collection of paintings of famous greyhounds and of fighting cocks. There was also a beautiful antique mirror in the gallery. I wanted to use his collection in some way in the portrait , but I wanted to make something that would be unique.
I placed him, reflected in his mirror, holding his ubiquitas cigar, surrounded by the greyhounds and chickens. I also chose to make the canvas octagonal just for the fun of it. Stretching an octagonal canvas is not easy. He was surprised and delighted when he saw the finished work. He hadn’t seen it in progress and had no idea of what I was doing.