A special portrait for the ages

Artist donates important piece to national collection

Ahead of the National Gallery’s opening of its new permanent gallery, scheduled for February 2012, artist John Broad has donated a piece of work to the National Art Collection.  

The painting, titled Portrait of Susanna Catherine Conolly, is described as a haunting image of a 19th century woman from East End who lived during emancipation. The portrait was first featured in 21st Century Cayman, a National Gallery group exhibition in 2010, which incorporated collaborations between many of Cayman’s contemporary artists and well known crafters, Gallery representatives said.  

For his part, John explored the connections between Cayman’s past and present. While doing research at the National Archives, he came across an image of Ms Conolly and was immediately drawn to her poise and grace. 

“I wanted to capture the emotive feeling that I had when I first glimpsed the photograph of her in the Cayman Islands National Archive,” he says. “I was struck by the dignified pose of the subject, looking into the camera all those years ago, from a bygone era.  

“The organic materials of thatch and chalk, which must have been familiar to Susanna, blended together to resurrect the image reaching back into the 19th century and bringing her forward to the 21st.” 


Authentic background 

After choosing the subject matter, John sought out the expertise of Rosemay Ebanks, a traditional thatch-plating specialist from West Bay. She wove the strips of silver thatch that serve as the background for the portrait.  

“The central premise of 21st Century Cayman was to re-imagine our traditional arts for our contemporary experience,” says National Gallery director Natalie Urquhart, who curated the exhibition. “Mr Broad’s innovative idea captured this notion by taking the silver thatch woven by Ms Ebanks and working it into a form of contemporary canvas. His choice of subject then built a bridge back into our past. 

“Portrait of Susanna Catherine Conolly became a central work in the exhibition, and we are delighted that it will now be on display permanently for all to see.” 


About the artist 

John is a long-standing member of the arts community and is actively involved in the National Gallery as an exhibiting artist and as an instructor. He has also contributed to many National Gallery fundraisers over the years through his signature speed painting. In 2004, he was commissioned by the National Gallery and the Quincenntenial Committee to create the Wall of History, which stands in Hero’s Square. He has several other works in the National Collection.  

John’s enthusiasm for the new National Gallery prompted his support through this donation.  

“The opening of the new building offers an exciting opportunity for the development of the arts in Cayman, both as a showcase for exciting contemporary and traditional exhibitions and as a home for the NGCI extensive education programmes,” he says.  


From left, National Gallery summer interns Leanna Lewis and Kerri-Anne Chisholm, the Gallery’s Exhibition Committee chair, John Doak, artist John Broad, Passport2Success particpant and artist Joann Smith and Deutsche Bank 2010/11 intern Latrese Haylock. – PHOTOS: SUBMITTED

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