June 22 2022

National Portrait Gallery commissions new portrait of Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis by Sir Peter Blake

The portrait has been unveiled at Glastonbury Festival today – Peter Blake’s 90th birthday – and will be displayed at the National Portrait Gallery when it reopens in 2023

The National Portrait Gallery, London, announces its commission of a new portrait, depicting Glastonbury Festival’s founder, Michael Eavis. Painted by British artist, Peter Blake, the portrait shows Eavis standing in front of the Festival’s iconic Pyramid Stage at Worthy Farm, where the 50th festival is being hosted for the first time in three years, following cancellations due to the
Covid-19 pandemic. Unveiled at the festival on 25 June 2022 – Peter Blake’s 90 th birthday – the portrait will go on public display when the National Portrait Gallery reopens in 2023, following the completion of its major transformation project, Inspiring People.


Michael Eavis was born in 1935 and grew up on Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset. After attending both Wells Cathedral School and the Thames Nautical Training College, he joined the British Merchant Navy, but returned to Worthy Farm, aged 19, on the death of his father. 16 years after inheriting the 150-acre dairy farm and its 60 cows, Eavis hosted the first Glastonbury Festival at the site in 1970, inspired after watching Led Zeppelin perform at the Shepton Mallet Blues Festival. 1,500 fans attended the first festival, which now attracts 200,000 people per year, making it one of the largest greenfield music and performing arts festivals in the world. In 2007, Eavis was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of the positive impact he has made through his work.


A fellow music lover, Peter Blake is one of the greatest living British artists. Born in 1932 in Dartford, Kent, early works that brought him fame include the cover for The Beatles’ iconic album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which he designed with his first wife Jann Haworth. Blake is a painter, sculptor, draughtsman and printmaker, who combines elements of popular culture within his work. Blake first exhibited his work in 1950 and from the 1970s to today, he has enjoyed regular gallery and institutional exhibitions – including retrospectives at the Tate Gallery, London in 1984 and most recently at Tate Liverpool in 2007. He continues to be associated with the world of music.


In 2022, Blake was knighted as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to art. The Gallery holds two other portraits created by Blake in its Collection – the 1991 screenprint, T for The Beatles, a reprise of his The 1962 Beatles painting and a double portrait of husband and wife, art dealer Leslie Waddington and antique jewellery expert Clodagh Waddington (1999).


Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London said: “Celebrating both the sitter and artist’s major contributions to British art and culture, we are delighted to have commissioned this new portrait of Michael Eavis by Sir Peter Blake for the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection. Smiling with his arms open wide, this painting celebrates Michael and his legacy as he
prepares to welcome music fans from across the world back to Glastonbury this year, where we are delighted to unveil it to also celebrate Sir Peter Blake’s 90 th birthday. As a fantastic addition to our contemporary collection, we very much look forward to exhibiting this wonderful portrait when our transformed National Portrait Gallery reopens in 2023.”


Michael Eavis CBE, said: "I'm so pleased to have been painted by my old friend Peter, and that my portrait is his first commission for the National Portrait Gallery. That’s a rare treat for a Somerset dairy farmer!"


Peter Blake CBE, said: “I visited the first Glastonbury in 1970 and have loved the festival ever since, so I was thrilled when the National Portrait Gallery commissioned me to paint Michael's portrait. After receiving the commission, we took Michael for lunch at a fancy West End restaurant. He arrived resplendent in his trademark denim shorts, which stopped the restaurant in its tracks! I knew then, that I had to include them in the portrait. I hope my painting encapsulates Michael’s free spirit, joyful energy and love of life.”


Read more on the National Portrait Gallery website


Peter Blake is currently exhibiting a series of over 170 watercolours, collages and drawings illustrating Dylan Thomas's landmark 1953 ‘play for voices’, Under Milk Wood, at Waddington Custot, London, until 23 July 2022.