Dame Judi Dench

(born 1934)

One of the leading stage actresses of her generation, Judi Dench trained at Central School of Speech and Drama. Her stage debut as Ophelia in Hamlet (1957) was the first of her many roles for the Old Vic and Royal Shakespeare Company. Dench’s many film appearances include A Room with a View (1985), Mrs. Brown (1997), and Oscar-nominated performances for Iris (2001) and Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005).

Alessandro Raho has spoken of how he attempted to “trap something I saw in Judi Dench while she waited in the foyer of the National Portrait Gallery, unaware of me.” The result is a portrayal of the actress in a role cast for her by the artist, which highlights portraiture’s paradoxical ability to make a picture of a person that is both a description of his or her appearance and a mask. Although photography is an integral part of Raho’s engagement with painting, this portrait retains painterly qualities, including delicate brush strokes and soft tonal effects.

By Alessandro Raho (born 1971)
Oil on canvas, 2004
National Portrait Gallery, London
© National Portrait Gallery, London