Painted full-length portrait of designer John Rocha wearing all black and standing in front of a wall covered in sheets of fabric and paper patterns.
Commissioned, 2015. National Gallery of Ireland Collection. Photo © National Gallery of IrelandCredit

Portrait of John Rocha (b.1953), Designer

A learning resource for young people entering the Zurich Young Portrait Prize.

Who is the artist?
Geraldine O’Neill ARHA
Where is the artist from?
She was born in Ireland.
When was the artist born?
She was born in 1971. 
When was the portrait made?
2015 
What is the portrait made of?
Oil on linen 
What size is the portrait?
220 x 200 cm

Who is the sitter? 
John Rocha is a Hong Kong-born fashion designer living in Ireland. Inspired to come to Ireland in the 1980s, having used Irish linen in his graduate collection, he has lived and worked in Dublin for the past 35 years. 

Why did the artist make this portrait?
The National Gallery of Ireland commissioned Geraldine O’Neill to make this portrait to celebrate John Rocha’s wonderful designs and contribution to Irish fashion. 

How was it made?
This painting was made with oil paints on linen. These paints take a long time to dry so they are often mixed with other substances such as white spirits which thins the paint a little so the artist can work more quickly. Linen is a slightly softer material than canvas therefore the paint can go on more smoothly. It can be really fun to work on!

Look closely

Take a look at this list of words:

red fabric
paper 
shoes
hair 
carpet 
scissors 
flowers 
butterfly
blackboard
black jacket

Now look at the portrait. Can you find these parts of the picture? Can you spot anything else?

Look again!

Take a look at these words:

playful
creative 
stylish 
calm 
productive 
happy 
busy 
unique

Now look at the picture again. Do any of these words describe the sitter? How would you describe him? Take out a notepad and jot down in your own words how you would make this portrait.

Get creative!

Now think of other ways the artist could have made this portrait.

  • Could it be a sculpture? A video work? A photograph?
  • Could he be sitting instead of standing? Could he be outdoors instead of indoors? 
  • What other objects could the artist have included in the portrait? 

Try sketching another version of this portrait in a notebook or on a spare sheet of paper.