The James Bond Triptych by Gerald Wadsworth

We are delighted to showcase the latest work by Gerry Wadsworth. Gerry has produced a triptych of Bond paintings, that will be sure to cement his legacy. Here Gerry talks about his process and inspirations.

‘The idea of a triptych came to me as I was completing “A Deadly Career.” I have always appreciated Japanese woodblock prints and have owned a few over the years, and I realized that by extending the Queen Anne table on both sides, it would give me added room to communicate the concept of a contemporary Bond. I could add in those objects that represented Bond as a man of our past and of our future, and would allow me to approach each painting as a collection of objects that Bond would have at hand as reminders of his time served in MI6. I was especially enthused about painting “The Fighting Temeraire” by Turner. It would be a first for me to have a painting within a painting – and Turner’s loose impressionistic style would a be a nice contrast to my usual tightly rendered imagery. Since I was fearful of mucking it up and ruining a painting right off the start, I decided to do the ship first. If successful, I would then continue with the rest of the painting…’

Commander James Bond KCMG, DSO, OBE, RNVR, (Ret.)

A Deadly Career

‘For “A Deadly Career” I chose a variety of iconic and lesser known images from Flemings’ novels and short stories that would support the narrative of the painting. I wanted to contemporize James Bond, which would allow us to envision him as a covert – albeit retired – member of MI6.

The selection of images highlight the span of his career from his earliest assignments to his current status – alive and well, and still living in his flat off the King’s Road. This painting was commissioned by the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, and is temporarily displayed in their Executive & VIP Board Room.’

A Deadly Career by Gerry Wadsworth

“A Deadly Career” In which we find James Bond, retired from the Secret Service, and still living in his Chelsea flat, comfortably situated off the King’s Road. His treasured housekeeper, May, an elderly Scotswoman, has long since passed, and Bond has hired another woman to take her place. Arranged on a long Queen Anne table in Bond’s flat are mementos from his deadly career – objects representing his successes and failures in his line of business: killing enemies and foiling organizations that threaten the Crown, the Service, and himself. These objects are tarnished with the long years of treachery, ruthlessness, and fear as is Bond. Each object tells a story, reminding him how close to death he came with every new assignment, every occasion when he was launched, like a loaded projectile, across the world toward some distant target of M’s choosing. Kill or be killed. Bond gave it little thought on the job, following every lead that would bring success and satisfaction to the Admiral to whom he had dedicated his loyalty, trust and life.

Official Secrets

‘For “Official Secrets” I was motivated by the Obit in The Times (of London) that appears at the end of You Only Live Twice, written by M about the presumed death of Bond at the hands of Blofeld (Dr. Shatterhand) and Irma Bunt. As my narrative describes, M recounts Bond’s early history as a youth, his time (very scandalous and short) at Eton, and his subsequent days at Fettes College.

The self-irony of Fleming is evident when M writes about the popularization of Bond’s exploits by a personal friend and how these stories were almost in violation of the Official Secrets Act – hence the name of the painting. I have continued the contemporization of Bond with his collection of first edition Fleming novels that Bond would have undoubtedly acquired, the recent Bond continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz -Trigger Mortis, a bookmark from Artistic Licence Renewed and other elements that Bond has on hand in his flat.’

To continue theme of the contemporary nature of Official Secrets, I followed clues from The Times Obit, added objects that Bond might have collected, as well as those mentioned in numerous novels – most of which need little explanation, ubiquitous as they are. Hence the Haig & Haig, Ben Hogan golf clubs, the Calamity Jane putter, Leica M3 camera, and the Lugar pistol, to mention a few. Some exceptions do occur. Blofeld’s samurai sword, for example, has the SPECTRE mon at the top of the handle. Unspecified “protection” was mentioned in The Spy Who Loved Me, so it was either Forex or Trojan condoms…I liked the colors of the Trojans best. The room key given to Bond in Risico was from the actual Hotel (Albergo) Danieli. Readers will remember the two cards Solitaire held face to face to show Bond she was on his side – so a portrait of her was required. The Chopping Fly is always my last image to add, so it appears on the edge of the shelf.

“Official Secrets” In which we find that the rumours of Bond’s demise at the hands of Blofeld and Irma Bunt were greatly exaggerated. M’s obit for Bond in The Times of London revealed his early history as a student at Eton and Fettes Colleges, his wartime career, and his service to the Crown – albeit classified – in the Ministry of Defense. Bond’s exploits were chronicled by foreign media, and a “series of popular books came to be written about him by a personal friend.” Back in his flat off the King’s Road, Bond’s mementos of his deadly career, as well as the novels, are proudly displayed on his library shelves. As M wrote, “if the quality of these books, or their degree of veracity, had been any higher, the author would certainly have been prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.” It is a testament to Bond’s career that even to this day other writers have picked up the baton to enthrall the public with tales of Bond’s chosen profession: a secret agent with the license to kill.

Man O’ War

‘For “Man O’ War” I have made certain presumptions and taken considerable artistic licence with the objects therein – and have conflated some imagery that “Bond might have collected” along with those known known’s from Fleming’s literary oeuvre.

Following the theme of bringing Bond into our times, I added the Love Knot necklace by Sophie Harley and worn by Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, and the J.M.W. Turner painting, “The Fighting Temeraire”  that appeared in the film “Skyfall” – as an ironic visual reminder of Bond and his retirement from MI6. But rather than being “ignominiously hauled away to the scrap yard” like an old war-horse, Bond is still a lethal weapon to be reckoned with by his enemies.’

The question I always ask myself is “what should I include in this painting?” For Man O’ War, it was no different. Bond is retired, so I needed images to convey that idea – but with a twist. Bond may have officially ended his career, but when the application of deadly force is needed, the tools had to be at hand. These include his Walther PPK, a 38 Special in the Berns-Martin triple draw holster, a Fairbairn-Sykes commando knife, and a relic from Capt. Morgan’s treasure trove – the Tower pistol. Rounding out the selection of objects is a Russian snipers medal, to remind him of Trigger in The Living Daylights, a squeeze bulb pistol to dispense cyanide from Property of a Lady, an English Sabre given to him by M, and the note by Baron Samedi’s minions about Felix Leiter in Live and Let Die. They are, for the most part, not-so-subtle reminders of Bond’s Licence to Kill.

“Man O’War” In which Bond has displayed on his Queen Anne sideboard an ironic “wink’s as good as a nod” to his retirement from MI6 as a secret agent. These artifacts are constant reminders of his close and frequent brush with death at the hands of enemy agents. They chronicle his loss of friends and loved ones – but also his personal triumphs over adversity and the obstacles thrown in his path. His official career may have quietly come to an end, like the grand old warship displayed upon his walls, but his work is yet to be done. He knows that his particular skills and talents may be called upon in the future by elements in the private sector, who require him to perform his services with a certain amount of finesse, subtlety and deadly discretion…He may be retired, but he still has the license to kill.

The Last voyage of an Old War Hero:

Q: It always makes me feel a little melancholy. Grand old war ship, being ignominiously hauled away to scrap… The inevitability of time, don’t you think? What do you see?
Bond: A bloody big ship.

Incidental Intelligence

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More from Gerry on ALR

13 thoughts on “The James Bond Triptych by Gerald Wadsworth

  1. Absolutely stunning.
    I find Gerald Wadsworth’s Bond art endlessly fascinating.
    His attention to detail and the sheer beauty of his work is truly something to behold and must surely put his work up alongside the likes of Chopping, Hawkey and Dalton.
    He’s done it largely for his own amusement but I can’t help but wish that the publishers would take note.
    The U.K. cover of ‘Forever & A Day’ is, unfortunately, another shining example of mediocrity.
    Sad in this e-book era.

  2. In addition to being one of the most talented artists in the world of Bond, Gerry is a wonderful person and a great friend. His enthusiasm for Bond is astronomical as is his humility. I feel honored to have met him and I always enjoy our chats about literary Bond.

  3. David – I always appreciate your commentary and it gives me great inspiration to “press on regardless.”
    And I agree with you on F&AD cover…too bad really. I emailed AH and told him I’d be happy to do his new book…but it was done deal with the publishers and he has no control over who does it. Just hopes, I guess, that they’ll do a good job…such is the price of fame and fortuna!

    • I find it both fascinating and depressing that publishers accord so little importance to cover art in the e-book age.
      It is the equivalent of Coca Cola abondoning their unique bottle shape and adopting a stock bottle in the face of own label competition.
      Publishers see in-house design teams and computer graphics as a cost saving when effectively they are producing mediocre work that is contributing to the decline of print and the rise of Amazon and the e-book.
      Thankfully there are exceptions. James Ellroy’s UK publisher did a fabulous job with their special edition of ’Perfidia’ and The Folio Society’s Fleming collection is outstanding.
      But examples of excellence are way too few. If I was an author, I’d be spitting blood.

      • AH probably thought I was being snarky when I “offered to do his cover” – but he was a gentleman and politely reminded me that he has little choice in the matter, but he was very pleased with what the Pub. House design team came up with…I reckon that publishers think – or assume – that the name of the author in 96 point bold face sans serif type reversed out to white on a black background with a drop shadow and a photoshop generated image underneath is sufficient draw for the public…such are the times we live in, David!
        His son did love the painting I did for Trig.Mort. and ordered a print for his dad’s birthday two years ago…so at lease I got something in front of him…as a gentle reminder! 🙂

  4. From my friend Carlos – who didn’t have the WordPress password – Gracias, Carlos para sus palabras buenas.

    “Excellent Gerald! It is an honor to live in the same neighborhood of such a talented artist!
    Un fuerte abrazo,

  5. It’s all marvellous, Gerald. The amount of work ‘within’ the paintings themselves. I’m just curious about the SAS wings at the bottom of A Deadly Career? Asking for a friend.

    • Andy…here’s what I know, and included in the copy above – “James Bond’s Medals for His Military Service
      At the end of Moonraker, Bond refused the KCMG medal – Knight Commander of the Order St. Michael & St. George – he didn’t want the title of Knight. But I gave it to him anyway, as well as the medals he might have received later in life before he retired. His “lettuce” as he called it, would have denoted the DSO, (Distinguished Service Order), OBE (Order of the British Empire), Campaign Service Medal, 1939-1949 Star, Atlantic Star, Pacific Star, Defense Medal, and War Medal. I’ve also included the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross), Campaign Service Medal 1962, UN Former Republic of Yugoslavia Medal, NATO Medal for Former Yugoslavia, and the Rhodesia Medal. He also wears the Parachutists Badge with Wings as well as the Fleet Air-Arm Officer Pilot Wings. I decided that Bond should have all the medals for his services rendered to the Crown.” – I read somewhere that Fleming was in the SAS so I presumed that Bond was too – early in his career. I hope I didn’t bollux up and put in a wrong medal! Let me know.

      • Hi Gerald, I understand they were both navy men. But in the wonderful (fictional) world of Bond no doubt they would some tenuous link to SAS dress uniform wings, so don’t allow my *nal enquiry trouble your marvellous work.

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