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This Portrait of Dame Cleo Laine by Duncan Shoosmith hangs at The Jazz Centre UK within the Dankworth exhibition space of our Heritage Centre. It has national acclaim not only for Dame Cleo Laine herself but this artwork won Duncan Shoosmith The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year for 2019.

Dame Cleo Laine Painting Eyes


The highly prestigious Sky Arts ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’ competition has been held (and televised) since 2013 on the Sky Arts Channel. The winning artist of each round, selected by three judges, advances to the semi-final and then to the final; both of which events are filmed at the National Portrait Gallery. In 2018 Duncan Shoosmith chose as his subject Dame Cleo Laine DBE, the internationally-renowned jazz singer and actress, and widow to Sir John Dankworth (Britain’s first musician to be knighted for his services to jazz) who died in 2008.


Following Duncan’s decision, he was invited to be filmed at Britain’s first cultural centre for the music ‘The Jazz Centre UK’ in Southend-on-Sea to discuss the forthcoming sitting with Centre CEO Digby Fairweather. The meeting with Dame Cleo which followed soon after (and which was televised in the same show) allowed Duncan to make pencil sketches of his subject before embarking on his portrait which was announced as the winner of the competition on April 16th 2019 by its judges Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan. Digby Fairweather says: “we were all delighted when Duncan won the competition with his portrait - and when Dame Cleo, one of our closest friends and a long-time supporter of jazz causes in Britain, chose to donate it to us for permanent exhibition”. The portrait’s official unveiling – at 4pm on Saturday June 22nd 2019 by Dame Cleo’s daughter Jacqui Dankworth– followed  a celebratory concert by Jacqui  and her musical partner Charlie Wood at The Jazz Centre UK.  


As a result of his win Duncan Shoosmith was then commissioned to paint the portrait of singer Sir Tom Jones, which now hangs in the collection of The National Museum of Wales.

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