Portrait of Borders rugby legend Doddie Weir now on show at national gallery

A chance to see the big picture is now on offer to rugby fans nationwide.

By Darin Hutson
Monday, 3rd February 2020, 5:54 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 6:22 pm
Doddie Weir at the unveiling of a picture of him at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Photo: Neil Hanna
Doddie Weir at the unveiling of a picture of him at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Photo: Neil Hanna

Glaswegian artist Gerard Burns’ portrait of Scottish rugby hero Doddie Weir has gone on show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

Its unveiling at the Queen Street gallery last week was timed to coincide with this year’s Guinness Six Nations tournament.

The artwork, sold at auction in Hong Kong for almost £100,000 in April last year, is on loan to the gallery from Doddie and his family.

Doddie with wife Kathy and artist Gerard Burns at the unveiling. Photo: Neil Hanna

It went under the hammer at a charity dinner in aid of the charity set up by the former Scotland international following his diagnosis with motor neurone disease in 2016, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, and was bought as a crowdfunding enterprise by hundreds of well-wishers, then presented to the 49-year-old as a gift.

The 1.2sq m portrait depicts Weir, of Blainslie, wearing one of his trademark tartan suits and with the Eildon Hills in the background.

It will be on display in the gallery’s great hall for the duration of the Six Nations championship – due to end on Saturday, March 14.

That will give Scotland fans a chance to see it before attending the two home games of the tournament lined up for the national side, captained by fellow Borderer Stuart Hogg, almost three miles west at the BT Murrayfield Stadium – against England this Saturday, February 8, at 4.45pm, and France on Sunday, March 8, at 3pm.

It will then be moved to the gallery’s modern portrait exhibition alongside pictures of the likes of pop star Annie Lennox, Selkirk singer-songwriter Scott Hutchison and actors Alan Cumming, Ewen Bremner and Iain Glen, as well as crime writer Denise Mina, also painted by Burns.

That exhibition is due to run until the end of March next year.

Former Melrose and Newcastle Falcons lock Doddie, capped 61 times for Scotland between 1990 and 2000, said: “It is a great honour to have Gerard’s painting on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery among so many notable and notorious Scots.

“I have had a great deal of fun in Hong Kong over the years, and the support of the Scottish and rugby communities there has been incredible since I shared my diagnosis.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for their contribution, and especially Gerard for doing such a fine job with the limited source material, and a big thank-you to the National Galleries of Scotland for including the painting in their fine collection.”

His picture’s unveiling also prompted him to tweet: “My good lady said I was no oil painting – well, I’d like to dispute that.”

Former pop star Mr Burns, 58, admitted that capturing the essence of the 6ft 6in-tall Borderer on canvas was a tall order but feels he did him justice, saying: “I felt strongly from the very beginning that this painting should show some of Doddie’s inner strength, that to make something too trivial would have been completely wrong given the circumstances of his life at this point.

“It is always a real stomach-churner for me to see how a sitter will react when they see their own portrait.

“It has been a real privilege to work with Doddie.

“I am thrilled with the portrait and I sincerely hope I have done him justice. I think he liked it.

“He is an exceptional man in so many ways and I am delighted to be gifting the painting to then help raise money for Doddie’s charity.

“From a purely selfish point of view, it is really just such a pleasure to work with a true sporting legend.”

For further details, go to www.nationalgalleries.org

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