'This is a finished portrait. I thought you would like to see one: it is not a hint – just imagine how long Memling would have taken to do a double portrait’ - L. Waddington
‘Leslie Waddington with Portrait of a Young Man by Hans Memling, painted over a four-year period in the late 1990s, demonstrates the exactitude of Blake’s portraiture, one of the many strands of his art. The precision is both a visual one, descended from the realism of the Flemish 15th-century portraiture openly acknowledged by the inclusion of a painted reproduction behind the art dealer’s head, and a psychological one. The artist’s extreme attentiveness to the nuances of facial expression – the lips slightly open, as if he were about to say something, and the eyes turned piercingly to an unseen object of his attention – makes for a compelling ‘speaking likeness’. Leslie was well accustomed to Blake’s sometimes painfully slow pace of production. Both to tease him good-naturedly and to prod him into completing the picture, in 1997, halfway through the portrait’s long gestation, he sent the artist a postcard of a Memling portrait – the same one that ended up in this very painting as a kind of visual punchline to the private joke – as a gentle and humorous reminder that while he may have been a young man himself when work on the portrait commenced, he might be nearing his dotage when he finally got to see the result. The message on his card begins: ‘This is a finished portrait. I thought you would like to see one: it is not a hint – just imagine how long Memling would have taken to do a double portrait.’ Based, as was Blake’s usual practice, on a tracing of a detailed photograph of his sitter, the depiction of Leslie’s face captures both the moment of the camera’s shutter and the long process of reincarnating that person’s image in paint, a process imbued with accumulated memories’ (M. Livingstone, excerpt from ‘A partial portrait of Leslie Waddington as art collector’, July 2016).