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Remembering DJJ

As the world says farewell to Professor David Johns CBE, David reflects on the sittings with him as Vice-Chancellor…. The only sitter who became a long-standing friend.

David goes into painterly mode and reflects on the sittings with him as 3rd Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford. Many formal portraits have come from the Atack brush – famous people, illustrious people, people who made a difference. Prof Johns was all of those things rolled into one and became the only sitter who became a long-standing friend…. known fondly as DJJ.

David had to capture the commanding presence of DJJ, the highly intellectual fast thinker, filled with confidence, charismatic, handsome, charming and mischevious, yet always the leader, taking one academic institution after another to levels never thought possible. Seven photographs into one painting (all surviving from the sittings in 1997). As a portrait painter, that is what David does, captures the person in his/her many modes…

Important objects to celebrate a full and active life. A passion for crosswords tell us of his passions for rugby (his position was prop forward). His deep passion for music (Nessum Dorma by Pavarotti always made him cry). He was an Aeronautical Engineer, as shown by his book on Thermal Stress Analysis (also the painting of Concorde on the wall, which DJJ worked on). He founded the City Polytechnic in Hong Kong (seeing it through to University status) and was proud of the junk they presented to him, made from a jet turbine blade. Including objects/surroundings in a painting to strengthen the personality of the sitter is one of the signatures of David Atack.

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