'St Thomas More'- Unveiled in Church, June 2009, by Stephen B Whatley

© Stephen B Whatley


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On this date, July 5, four hundred & seventy four years ago, the scholar, lawyer and Lord Chancellor of England , Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), spent his last day on Earth in a cell at the Tower of London. Condemned to death by King Henry VIII, he spent his final hours praying. His crime? His refusal to accept the Act of Supremacy, making Henry VIII Head of the Church of England.


A committed Catholic, he defied the King and chose God over man - his committment to his faith; which never once wavered - as can be witnessed through the beauty of the prayers he wrote as prisoner at the Tower.


Four hundred years after his death - his murder- in 1935, this great man was finally canonized.


In late 1999, Stephen B Whatley was commissioned to create 30 paintings for the Tower of London; a mammoth and exhilerating undertaking that he fulfilled in 2000.


Amongst the depictions of the Tower's history that he created through his vibrant Expressionism, was a new interpretation of a portrait of the late statesman Sir Thomas More. The famous portrait for which More sat in 1512 by Hans Holbein the Younger is now in the Frick Collection in New York, USA; while the almost identical portrait, painted the same year, by an 'unknown artist' belongs to Britain's National Portrait Gallery.


Stephen B Whatley travelled to Montecute House, Somerset, where this portrait and much of the Tudor Collection belonging to the National Portrait Gallery hangs- and was moved to be able to make charcoal drawings and graphite studies ( some of which can be seen on this site) , inches away from the surface of this painting, made in More's lifetime. The artist felt such a privilege to be able to capture the essence, to feel close to the subject.


The drawings then became the inspiration for a portrait in oils which along with the rest of the series hangs in The Tower of London. The public can see all the paintings reproduced permanently throughout the public Walkway that leads to the Tower.


The paintings have aroused interest in limited edition prints; and in April 2009, the Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas More, in Eastcote, Middlesex, UK acquired a special print of Stephen B Whatley's portrait of Thomas More - which they asked him to come to unveil and talk at their special concert and celebration of the Feast Day of Thomas More; staged last Sunday, June 27, 2009 (at which this shot was captured by Parish Secretary Helen Howley)


"...this was one of the most humbling honours for me - quite overwhelming - as on arrival I found that the concert was to be staged before the altar in the contemporary church. My print, framed by the church and veiled was set just in front of the Crucifix. I had decided to speak from my heart, no notes - and to the beautiful strains of Bach, Mozart and Schuman - my eyes were fixed on the Cross, in prayer - for strength.


The Parish Priest, Fr John Deehan paid a very warm tribute to me and my work in a touchingly detailed introduction; before I was invited to come forward and step up to perform the unveiling. Standing there the congregation seemed more vast - and there was an audible intake of breath as the green shroud was removed; and the dedicated print revealed- strikingly mounted and framed. It truly seemed to glow.


Then from the lecturn, I spoke a little about the art world, my survival in it; and that my journey has been one with God - not some huge marketing machine. That my successes have come through deep prayer; alongside a lot of hard work.


Touching on that I had, like most, have suffered in my life, I mentioned that I had often remarked that "Art has saved my life" there , 'in the shadow' of this great Crucifix, I realised that more importantly that it is my deep faith in Christ that has saved my life. Amongst the sea of faces I could see moist eyes glinting and with a quite rapturous applause, my head was hung very low - in humility."






  • Steve PRO 6y

    So very pleased you look when you are around religious items:-)
    A delight to see you smile with love, great work Stephen!!!
    This amazing image really is In Fine Style
    and this serves as an invitation to

    In Fine Style
  • Dottie Tarvin 6y

    Stephen you look so debanaire and sophisticated....You're very photogenic. I love this entire image...St Thomas More is smiling at you and giving you the thumbs-up on this gorgeous painting. Take care my dear.
  • William Rader PRO 6y

    Stephen, there is something very humble in the way you have captured More.
  • f650biker 6y

    Cool work Stephen
  • David Castillo PRO 6y

    You look so happy¡¡And i am happy to see you¡¡
    ¡Saludos dios te bendiga amigo¡¡¡
  • kathleen towner 6y

    So Grand! Stephen, you mention Mozart the sound of music in his mind was amazing,as is your is your hand for painting .I hope to be able to come to Europe soon .My daughter has been wanting me to go for quite some time .then i can experience your art work up close.
  • Peggy Collins 6y

    It is a very stirring painting, Stephen. You look great here ~ and did you plan on your tie matching your surroundings so well? ;-) A big hug to you, my friend!
  • bahketni 6y

    Beautiful Painting and the masterpiece maker himself !
  • Mariá Hiena 6y

  • whidbychick PRO 6y

    I'm always so impressed by your work... I haven't done so much like that since Deb passed. But I have something in the works... at least in the workings of my mind.
  • Hugo Rodriguez PRO 6y

    A lesson of faith, an exemplary career of a young and talented artist must be related to God´s grace.
    Once again, a salute to a great person.
    God bless you, my friend!

    I salute you also Stephen, it is a very moving story, and we must have faith in whatever religion we believe in to get us through our troubles in our lives. Greetings, Irene

    nice pic

    لي عزة بالنفس ولي طيب الصيت....يا سائل عني ترى الطيب زادي آنا قطري و آنولها لو تمنيت ...تشهد لي آفعالي الحضر و البوادي
  • Steve PRO 6y

    Thanks Stephen! have a fantastic week ahead my dear friend!!!
  • Quay Bell 6y

    What a Special Moment.... for You and for Them..~~~
    I really believe Your mother, Nan, & Gran. were pillars in your life for your Success...
    I love what Psalms 25:9 says::: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way......
    this reminds me of you...I'm sure you were nervous talking without notes, but it sounds like God blessed it..
    Thanks for sharing this Special moment...
    Much Love to you dear Stephen...
  • kathleen towner 6y

    hey stephen,my son was just admitted into a V.A. Hospital not doing to well looks like it will be a long hall.Trying hard to keep my spirits strong.If i ever make it to England will let you know
  • Derek Crowley Photography 6y

    A very worthy subject and impressive work Stephen :)
  • Peter Denton 6y

    This was a remarkable commission, especially to someone as committed to the faith as you are, Stephen. Personally, I have no religious faith, but I nevertheless recognise the social significance, the historical importance, of heroic people such as Sir Thomas More. I'm always moved whenever I see his statue in Chelsea (below) - because Art (in all its forms) is a perpetual commemoration of the indefatigability of the human spirit, as your own vibrant depiction of this courageous man demonstrates.

    Sir Thomas More
  • tqsdpji 3y

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Taken on June 27, 2009
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