New sculpture of Sir Tim Berners-Lee unveiled

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A newly commissioned portrait of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Internet, has been unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery this Thursday 28th May.

The painted bronze statue, from artist Sean Henry, shows Berners –Lee standing on a tall plinth, carrying the leather rucksack in which he keeps his laptop. Apart from photographs, it is the computer scientist’s first commissioned portrait.

Sean Henry spent two days with Berners-Lee in Boston, observing his movements at home and photographing him at work, before inviting him to two further sittings at Henry’s studio in Britain.

Commissioned by the Gallery in celebration of Sir Tim’s 60th birthday and it was made possible by J.P Morgan. Sean Henry was chosen to make the painted sculpture after discussions with the sitter and his wife, all wanted to move away from the usual photographic depiction of Nerners-Lee seated before a computer. This has resulted in the Gallery’s first commissioned sculpture for seven years.

Rosie Broadley, Associate Curator of the National Portrait Gallery, London, said, ‘Henry was interested in the paradox inherent in the impact of Berners-Lee’s invention and his self-effacing demeanour. Henry’s sculpted figures are usually anonymous, and in this portrait he has retained the idea of his subject as “everyman”, through the casual pose and clothing. The depiction of his sitter is resolutely contemporary, but the use of bronze has a timeless and permanent quality appropriate for a sitter with such a significant legacy.’

Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, a computer technology which has become the most powerful communication medium in the world. His invention has impacted on almost all aspects of contemporary life in the developed world including the dissemination of news, information and research; how we learn, shop, participate in governance and conduct relationships.

Born in London in 1955, Berners-Lee graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in physics in 1976. In 1980, he joined CERN, the large particle physics laboratory in Switzerland as a software engineer, where he recognised that scientists needed better ways to exchange data with colleagues. His 1989 proposal for the World Wide Web combined two emerging ideas – the Internet, a network of connected computers; and hypertext, the concept of linking texts to other texts – to create a ‘Web’ that makes information easily accessible and shareable by everyone.

The artist Sean Henry studied in Bristol and California, and his work is part of a number of international collections. Henry’s outdoor installations include Walking Woman (2013 Ekebergparken, Oslo, Norway), Catafalque (2003, Meijer Gardens, USA) and Couple (2007, located off the coast of Northumberland at Newbiggin Bay, England). Sean Henry (seanhenry.com) is represented exclusively in the UK by London gallery Osborne Samuel.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee by Sean Henry is on display in Room 40 at the National Portrait Gallery from Friday 29 May, Admission free.

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