David Sylvester ('Mr Art')

© Larry Rivers/VAGA, New York/DACS, London 2024. Image credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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Mr Art was painted when Sylvester's public profile had reached a zenith in the early 1960s. 1962 was also the year of Rivers' first exhibition in London at Gimpel Fils. Mr Art demonstrates the apparently spontaneous brushwork that Rivers had adopted from the Abstract Expressionists, although, living in Paris at the time, it may be evidence of the influence of Tachism, allied with his carefully-observed figurative subject matter. This portrait is representative of an era and encapsulates much of the dialogue between the figurative and the abstract that was current at the time. Its fusion of Abstract Expressionism and figuration embodies ideals held by both sitter and artist; ideals that inspired a generation of artists, among them David Hockney.

National Portrait Gallery, London



David Sylvester ('Mr Art')




oil on canvas


H 183 x W 137 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Purchased with help from the Art Fund, the estates of Francis Bacon and John Edwards, the Henry Moore Foundation and members of the Sylvester family, 2004

Work type



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