Attenborough in Paradise

Published: 20 April 2023

Leicester Museums & Galleries are taking part in Portrait Mode with the new National Portrait Gallery this June. The National Portrait Gallery is encouraging everyone to get into Portrait Mode this summer to mark the reopening of the Gallery on 22 June 2023 following a major transformation project.

Attenborough in Paradise (Portrait of Sir David Attenborough)

Acrylic on canvas, 2016

By Bryan Organ

This portrait of Sir David Attenborough was inspired by his 1996 television series about Birds of Paradise, and incorporates numerous images of these birds into its background. 

Sir David Attenborough was a regular museum visitor in his childhood, having grown up nearby. He was especially inspired by the museum’s Charna fossil, the first Precambrian fossil to be identified. Talking in 2010 of finding fossils in his youth Sir David said that “of course I wanted to know what they were. So, I brought them here to the Museum… The influence of this museum had a profound effect on my career”.

The Attenboroughs have a long history of supporting Leicester museums. Their father Fredrick was a patron of the first exhibition of German Expressionist artworks in 1944, while Lord Richard and Lady Attenborough donated their collection of ceramics by Picasso to the collection in 2007.

Commissioned by the City of Leicester Museums Trust with the support of the generous donations of visitors to the city museums, 2016.

Bryan Organ is an internationally recognised artist who was born in Leicester. He studied at College of Art, Loughborough, and Royal Academy Schools, teaching at Loughborough College, 1959–65. He had a first one-man show at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, 1959.

Organ early established himself as a painter of notabilities, including the composer Sir Michael Tippett, the writer and broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge, HRH Princess Margaret, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales. His work is in public collections in Britain and abroad.

Bryan Organ

  • 1935 Born in Leicester
  • 1952-59 Studied at Loughborough College of Art, then the Royal Academy
  • 1959-66 Taught at Loughborough College of Art
  • 1966 Paints the portrait of the composer Sir Malcolm Tippett (in the collection of Leicestershire Education Authority)
  • 1969 Portrait of his friend Graham Sutherland (in the collection the National Museum of Wales)
  • 1969 Commissioned to paint the fashion designer Mary Quant
  • 1970 Provokes much controversy with the painting of HRH Princess Margare
  • 1973 Paints the portrait of the musician Elton John
  • 1980 National Portrait Gallery commissions the portrait of HRH Charles, Prince of Wales
  • 1981 Portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales, for the NPG
  • 1984 Paints François Mitterrand, President of France
  • 1986 Paints the actor and director Richard Attenborough
  • 1987 Paints the portrait of businessman Alan Sugar
  • 1995-2016 Receives frequent private and public commissions, especially from universities to paint distinguished academics
  • 2016 Paints the portrait of Sir David Attenborough for the permanent collection of the New Walk Art Gallery, Leicester