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Daniel Henderson’s decision to enter this year’s Archibald Prize was made on the spur-of-the-moment. A friend had suggested it to him but without any previous experience of portrait painting – as opposed to portrait drawings of which he has done quite a few – he felt hesitant. However, his friend persisted until Henderson took to the easel and produced this, his first oil painting and his first colour portrait.
His main motivation, he says, was ‘to paint the most beautiful portrait I possibly could of my beloved daughter Lily-Rose. Ever since her birth I have wanted to create something memorable in her name. I feel as if life tossed me a lifejacket in the storm when she was born and I wanted to push my ability to the limit with this painting and go beyond the familiar to somewhere new. I also want to convey to people my wish that they should listen with sensitivity to what our children have to say, and not only with their ears’.
Henderson has been a house painter for the past eight years. ‘It’s paid the bills but all that time I knew it wasn’t enough, that there wasn’t enough soul in it to keep me fulfilled’. Born in Dublin in 1973, he came to Australia in 1997. Other than a nine-month portfolio course in Dublin, he is self-taught as an artist. This portrait is dedicated to his grandmother Dorothy Alice Henderson, still living in Dublin, who spent countless days when he was a child watching him work at his colouring-in books. ‘She always advised me that the colour should stay within the lines, though sometimes she allowed the colour in me to break free.’