Open main menu

Colin Davidson (artist)

Colin Davidson (born 1968) is an Irish visual artist, living and working near Belfast, Northern Ireland. An artist who works in themes, his recent large-scale head paintings have been exhibited worldwide.


Davidson was born in Belfast in 1968 and attended Methodist College Belfast between 1980 and 1987.[1] He graduated from the University of Ulster in 1991 with a First Class Honours Degree in Design.[2] He worked in the field of design for print until 1999 when he started to paint full-time. Davidson is an Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy and served as President of the Royal Ulster Academy between 2012 and 2015.[3][4]

Early workEdit

Davidson started to paint Belfast in his teens, and this theme came to the fore in 2004 when his exhibition No Continuing City was mounted at the Tom Caldwell Gallery.[5][6] The exhibition included large paintings of Belfast as seen from high view-points. The urban theme continued between 2006 and 2010 when Davidson made paintings based on the illusionary world seen in city window reflections.[7]


Since 2010 Davidson's work has been concerned with the human face and the resulting large scale head paintings are now recognised internationally. His portraits of Brad Pitt, Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley are held in the collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, the Ulster Museum in Belfast and the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin respectively.[8][9][10]

A permanent exhibition of Davidson's work is on display at Lyric Theatre, Belfast, where he personally presented his work to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the President of Ireland during the Royal visit to Northern Ireland in 2012.[11][12][13]

Davidson's work has been exhibited in the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2011, 2012 and 2013.[14][15] In 2012 he won the Visitors' Choice Award.[16]

In December 2015 Davidson was commissioned by TIME Magazine to paint the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for the cover for its 'Person of the Year’ issue.[17]

In 2016, Davidson was commissioned to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for Co-operation Ireland. This painting was unveiled at Crosby Hall in London by The Queen in November 2016.[18][19][20]

In 2017, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled Davidson's portrait of Ed Sheeran, a painting which has been acquired for its collection.[21][22]


In 2014, and continuing the theme of large scale portraits, Davidson turned his attention to the city of Jerusalem. He made paintings of twelve individuals who lived or worked in the city. They came from different backgrounds, cultures and traditions. Among these dozen Jerusalemites were Jews, Muslims, Christians, a politician, a monk, a doctor, a peace activist, a hotel worker and a holocaust survivor.[23][24][25][26] In 2017, the exhibition went on tour to London and New York, where it was shown at 92nd Street Y.[27][28]

Silent TestimonyEdit

Davidson's most recent exhibition of portrait paintings, entitled 'Silent Testimony', reveals the stories of eighteen people who are connected by their individual experiences of loss through the Troubles - a turbulent 30-year period in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s onwards. This critically acclaimed body of work was on show at the Ulster Museum Belfast during 2015, before embarking on a tour which includes the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris and Dublin Castle.The Exhibit is currently on display in Derry at the Nerve Visual Gallery in Ebrington Square. The exhibit will run until September 16th. [29][30][31][32][33][34][35]

Awards and honoursEdit

  • 2016 – Davidson was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Queen's University, Belfast for distinction in art.[36]
  • 2015 – US/Ireland Alliance Honor, Los Angeles[37][38][39]
  • 2012 – University of Ulster Distinguished Graduate of the Year Award, Belfast[40]
  • 2012 – BP Portrait Visitors' Choice Award, National Portrait Gallery, London[16]


  1. ^ "Ross's Online Irish Art & Jewellery Auctions". Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  2. ^ "Introduction". Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Lunch with Colin Davidson: The art of doing business" – via
  4. ^ Ireland, Culture Northern (24 March 2015). "RUA President Supports #SaveCultureNI Campaign".
  5. ^ "Colin davidson - Troubles Archive".
  6. ^ "Colin Davidson - Art Collection". 4 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Colin Davidson". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  8. ^ "The National Portrait Gallery? Upcoming Exhibitions". Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  9. ^ "Ulster Museum – National Museums Northern Ireland". Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Colin Davidson (b.1968), 'Portrait of Michael Longley (b.1939), poet, Editor and Anthologist', 2011–12". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  11. ^ The Queen views portraits by Colin Davidson at the Lyric Theatre Belfast. YouTube. 5 May 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "National Portrait Gallery – Exhibitor". Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  15. ^ "National Portrait Gallery – Exhibitor". Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  16. ^ a b ""BP Portrait Award 2012: the Visitor's Choice" goes to Colin Davidson at the National Portrait Gallery". London Art Reviews. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  17. ^ Gibbs, Nancy. "Behind TIME's Person of the Year Cover". Time.
  18. ^ Meredith, Robbie (9 November 2016). "Queen unveils her portrait by NI artist" – via
  19. ^ "Irish artist unveils portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on RTÉ". 7 November 2016.
  20. ^ "The Queen unveils new painting by acclaimed Northern Ireland artist".
  21. ^ "News Release: NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY ACQUIRES NEW PORTRAIT OF ED SHEERAN - National Portrait Gallery". Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  22. ^ "Portrait - National Portrait Gallery".
  23. ^ "Oliver Sears Gallery – COLIN DAVIDSON, Jerusalem". Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  24. ^ "Cohabiting with conflict: Colin Davidson's 12 faces of Jerusalem". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  25. ^ "12 portraits, 12 stories: Colin Davidson's picture of Jerusalem". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  26. ^ "Colin Davidson: I've had brushes with my heroes". The Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Sweeney, Joanne. "Painter Colin Davidson's journey from Belfast to Jerusalem". The Irish News.
  29. ^ "BBC Arts - Painting the Troubles: Colin Davidson's moving Silent Testimony - BBC Arts". BBC.
  30. ^ "Stunning portraits of victims of the Troubles capture what words fail to". 19 June 2015.
  31. ^ humans.txt. "Silent Testimony - Wave Trauma Centre".
  32. ^ Ireland, Culture Northern (5 June 2015). "Silent Testimony".
  33. ^ "Silent Testimony 2015 - Colin Davidson".
  34. ^ "Exhibition of 18 portraits focuses on those affected by Troubles".
  35. ^ "Exhibition : Silent Testimony by Colin Davidson - British Council France". Archived from the original on 26 September 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  36. ^ "Queen's honours leading artist and London Transport Chief". Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  37. ^ "US-Ireland Alliance's 10th annual Oscar Wilde Awards honors Colin Davidson, Carrie Fisher and Stephen Colbert". Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  38. ^ Mike Barnes. "Irish in Film Awards-Season Event Names First 2015 Honoree (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  39. ^ Shalini Dore. "Stephen Colbert, Carrie Fisher Get Their Irish Honor". Variety. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  40. ^ "Sync NI – News – First Trust Bank Distinguished Graduate Award 2013/14". Retrieved 12 April 2015.