The National Portrait Gallery Unveils Newest Commissioned Portrait, DAME MONICA MASON
A newly commissioned portrait of former ballerina and Director of the Royal Ballet, Dame Monica Mason, by artist Saied Dai has been unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery, London, it was announced today.
In the larger than life-size portrait, Dame Monica takes on a commanding pose as she sits holding a mask, looking sideways at the viewer; a position reflective of a dancer's poise combined with a director's authority and scrutiny. The deep violet colours, the heavy curtain evoking a stage in the background and the opulent folds in the blouse and shawl she is wearing create a theatrical feel to the portrait. Dai first met Dame Monica at the Royal Opera House during her final weeks as Director of the Royal Ballet before her retirement in 2012. The sittings for the portrait took place at the artist's studio in Bath over a period of eight months.
A key figure in British cultural life for over fifty-four years, Dame Monica Mason has led a remarkable career. She was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and moved to Britain with her family in 1941 at the age of fourteen to attend the Royal Ballet School. She joined the Royal Ballet Company when she was just sixteen as their youngest ever member, and came to prominence when she was selected by choreographer Kenneth MacMillan for a highly demanding lead role in his production ofThe Rite of Spring (1962). Following this, she showed her impressive athleticism and technical abilities in her performances as Clytemnestra in Elektra (1963) and alongside Rudolf Nureyev in Hamlet (1964), before being appointed Principal dancer 1968. Following a number of subsequent acclaimed roles, she became Principal Répétiteur to the Royal Ballet in 1984. In 1991 she was appointed Assistant Director and succeeded Ross Stretton as Director in 2002.
Her tenure saw the careers of choreographers such as Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon take off and also saw the Royal Ballet reaching out to new audiences by taking advantage of new technology and by selecting alternative venues for performances. Dame Monica was appointed OBE in 2002 and then DBE in 2008.