Portrait of Elle Macpherson and Four Life-size Pochoir Prints
 
Nicola Green's portrait of Elle Macpherson: <em>'Elle'</em>
"Elle" 2013, Oil on canvas  86 cm x 198 cm

The portrait was revealed in a special private view at the Australian High Commission, in the presence of the Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency, The Honourable Mike Rann, the model Elle Macpherson herself alongside the artist, Nicola Green, on the 19th of November 2013. The unveiling aptly coincides with the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition: AUSTRALIA this autumn, which will be the first major survey of Australian art and artists in the UK for fifty years.

The Australian High Commissioner to the UK, Mike Rann, said: “Elle Macpherson has forged an incredible career both in the UK and Australia and is one of Australia’s most recognizable faces. She is a global icon in the world of clothing and business. Elle is an Australian success story and an inspiration to many young Australians.”
 
 
 
The oil portrait of Elle has influenced the creation of four life-size prints, using the same silhouette with the cloth removed, juxtaposing the naked and clothed body. 

Speaking about the portrait and the painting process, Elle Macpherson said: “I have never done anything quite like this before. It was an amazing and positive experience. The portrait is not just about me, but about the power of the female form.”

These works are one-off Pochoir prints; a stencilling technique which presaged silkscreen, employed by Soviet Revolutionary artists in large-scale works with crisp lines, geometric shapes in vibrant colours. The Pochoir prints complement the original painting and represent Nicola’s further exploration into the human form. Each of the two-colour combinations allowed the artist to experiment with colour as a metaphor for qualities integral to Elle, as well as reflecting the essence of female energy and power.

Photo Credit: Dafydd Jones

Nicola Green says of her task to portray the super model: “I knew very early on that I would make a life-size full-length portrait, to reflect not just Elle’s unusual height, but also her unique physical presence. This is a portrait of a woman who has had that remarkable silhouette since she strode onto the public stage as a teenager, who retains a lovely innocence in her face, but who has matured and changed greatly within. Elle and I wanted this portrait to show her as I see her, not as the public knows her from thousands of glossy photos.”

Nicola Green began by taking informal photos of Elle in her home to explore her spirit as a woman and a mother, with no make-up, whilst acknowledging her role as supermodel and businesswoman. Between sessions, Nicola made drawings and continued her research with a plan not to focus on facial expression, but to use stance and posture in order to reveal the essence of what it is to be a strong woman. This allows the viewer to reflect on Elle’s work over time, starting out as a model who became universally known as ‘The Body’ and going on to found a successful multi-national business empire, as well as supporting a range of women’s initiatives from breast cancer to breast feeding.

Although the cloth is sheer and you can see the form of the body, the ‘warrior’ stance is deliberately non-flirtatious, and is at once gentle and strong, exploring nakedness and transparency as signs of strength rather than sexuality.
 
“We went to the National Portrait Gallery and other museums together, looking at great portraits of women who manifest both femininity and power. The background is influenced by Cranach’s Venus and Marcus Gheeraert’s the Younger’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, presenting a woman embodying feminine power to this day, standing on a map of the world, rooted in a circle of light against Prussian blue”.

In the wake of the unveiling of the portrait, there was an interview with Nicola and Elle Macpherson for The Independent.
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