Penguins for the Pension Insurance Corporation

2013 was an ice-cool year for The Pension Insurance Corporation.

They wanted to decorate the 11 meeting rooms, and 2 public spaces of their Cornhill office, with art that would be admired by clients, enjoyed by staff, that would be a smart investment and that would extol their values as a company. To PIC, the penguin represents focus, dedication and adaptability- traits they relate to. Every PIC meeting room is named after a different species of penguin, the company logo also comprises two penguins. The project also grew out of then CEO John Coomber's commitment to sustainability, environmentally-conscious business practices and conservation. Enlisting members of the SWLA (Society of Wildlife Artists) who are keen advocates of understanding wildlife in it's natural habitat and any forces such as climate change that may affect that, seemed in line with PIC's brief.  Engaging Chris Rose and Bruce Pearson, who have actually been to the Antarctic to draw penguins from life was also a major addition to the project. Several newly graduated artists were also enlisted (enabling PIC to fulfil another of their wants from this project; to support young and emerging artists); and ultimately one artist was commissioned for each space.


Each artist was to interpret their designated species of penguin in their own style. First, they had to learn more about penguins. Chris and Bruce shared their previous experience and research throughout the project, but if ever there were an excuse for a trip to London Zoo, this was it! The artists observed and drew penguins from life, then developed their ideas in a group workshop. The day ended with a drinks reception at the Mall Galleries, where PIC shared the project with their clients. Sketches were presented and SWLA members also gave a presentation on penguins, sharing their experiences of travelling in the Antarctic.





To inaugurate the 33 works of art, PIC held an unveiling event at their office. Guests arrived to find artists drawing penguins on the reception walls (PIC have since decided to leave the drawings there). As the night went on, each artist was stationed in their meeting room, alongside their work, and a few conducted workshops on drawing penguins. The event concluded with a silent auction of artists’ preparatory sketches to raise money for the SWLA (a registered charity). Feedback on the evening, project and artworks was extremely positive.

To commemorate the project PIC produced a coffee-table book The Art of Penguin Insurance which documented the project as well providing illustrations of each artwork. 





Adelie - Dafila Scott             African - Eleanor Watson      Emperor - Adam Binder



Emperor - Adam Binder     Anna Ilsley - Fiordland      Galapagos - Antonia Phillips



Gentoo - Fran Giffard        Humboldt - Dolores de Sade  King - Bruce Pearson



Macaroni - Chris Rose         Rockhopper - Michael McManus  Royal - Gemma Anderson


Penguin Map - Francisca Prieto


Final Works

Work ranged from origami using maps, to bronze sculpture. Dolores de Sade depicted her Humbolt penguins in the library of their discoverer, Alexander von Humbolt. Fran Giffard’s Gentoo penguins were precisely and scientifically recorded, where Chris Rose’s piece was composed primarily of ocean. Eleanor Watson depicted her African penguins in a zoo setting, whilst Anna Ilsley prefered to depict the fascinating South Island, home of the Fiordland penguin.


Adelie - Dafila Scott           African - Eleanor Watson   African - Eleanor Watson   



Emperor - Adam Binder   Fiordland - Anna Ilsley       Galapagos  Antonia Phillip



Galapagos -             Gentoo - Fran Giffard           Humboldt - Dolores de Sade

Antonia Phillips



Humboldt - Delores de Sade  Little Penguin - Nadine Collinson   Little Penguin - Nadine Collinson


Macaroni - Chris Rose             Rockhopper - Michael McManus   Rockhopper - Michael McManus


Royal - Gemma Anderson   Royal - Gemma Anderson   Penguin Map - Francisca Prieto


'HMS Blencathra' by Paul Wright RSMA

'HMS Blecanthra' by Paul Wright RSMA

Paul Wright RSMA was recently commissioned by Mall Galleries visitor, David Murwill, to paint HMS Blencathra. Mall Galleries caught up with both of them to discuss the amazing history of a ship that served an important role in World War Two, the process of commissioning maritime and naval works, and the challenges of painting a vessel which no longer exists.

HMS Blencathra (L24) was a Royal Navy Hunt Class Destroyer. She was ordered under the 1939 Emergency Built Programme, with the brief that British warships required new anti-air and anti-submarine weapons. The Hunt Class destroyers were a class of World War Two escort vessel, built for convoys in British waters and the Mediterranean. Named after a fox hunt in Cumberland, presumably due to the fleet-footedness of foxes, and the fast pace of fox hunting, these ‘Hunt Class’ destroyers were speedy, easily maneuverable long-endurance warships, which escorted and defended larger vessels as they voyaged across the waves. Regrettably, the ship was scrapped in 1957 after being sold to the British Iron and Steel Cooperation, yet her rich history persists.

David Murwill’s father served as a Radio Operator on HMS Blencathra between 1942-6. After seeing the picture, Penguin in High Seas, a desire was kindled in David to commission a similar painting of the Blencathra. The final catalyst which prompted the commission was the passing of a friend of David’s father, who had been one of the few surviving crew members from HMS Blencathra.

Unsure where to start with the commissions process, David found the naval and maritime artworks of Paul Wright on Mall Galleries’ website; “I felt his work was close to what I wanted to achieve”, David says. Mall Galleries Art Consultant, Anna Bromwich, promptly put David in touch with Paul to exchange ideas and sources. As the ship had been scrapped, Paul had little to work with other than David’s memories of conversations with his father, letters, and a few grainy wartime photos of the Blencathra in her heyday. The artist conducted his own research, looking at plans and written accounts of HMS Blencathra and the Hunt-Class Destroyers. “Paul provided two pencil sketches of what he proposed”, David says; “I liked them so much that I commissioned both! One is acrylic with the Blencathra in heavy seas with a stormy sky, and the other is a larger oil painting, depicting her in convoy.”

HMS Blecanthra by Paul Wright RSMA

The process took fifteen months in total, and David is very pleased with the outcome: “Paul did not disappoint - the final result is excellent!” Paul also found the experience fascinating and enjoyable, saying “I knew little about this class of warship prior to this project - now I know a lot more!’

Through this commission, the amazing wartime history of HMS Blencathra has been successfully preserved in paint for David, and for future generations to discover.

Find out more about Mall Galleries' Marine Commissions

‘The Great Britain Clipper’ by Jenny Morgan RSMA

In October 2017, a couple on a day-trip to London were walking up the Mall and happened across the Royal Society of Marine Artists’ Annual Exhibition at Mall Galleries. "We were entranced", say the couple. "It was a lovely exhibition; the quality was very high and the subjects delightful." Little did they know that this chance visit would lead to the creation of a stunning marine commission by member artist, Jenny Morgan RSMA, entitled The Great Britain Clipper

The Clipper Round The World Yacht Race was set up by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who became the first person to solo circumnavigate the world by sea without stopping, between 1968 and 1969. The race itself comprises of eight legs, split into around sixteen individual races, and covering an astounding distance of 40,000 nautical miles, including eight ocean crossings. A fleet of twelve boats compete against each other to endure the elements. Each team sails a 70-foot racing yacht designed by naval architect Tony Castro in 2014.

Shortly after their inspiring visit to the RSMA exhibition, the couple’s son joined the crew aboard one of these twelve yachts, The Great Britain Clipper, to compete in the eleventh edition of the race. Boarding in Cape Town, he first sailed to Perth across the Southern Ocean, then on to Sydney where he took part in the famous Sydney to Hobart race, disembarking at the Whitsunday Islands some three months after he boarded.

Proud of their son, the clients wished in some unique and special way to commemorate his adventure. Remembering that Mall Galleries offers a commissions service, they decided to commission a painting of the yacht on which their son had spent such a thrilling three months. To get the ball rolling, they contacted the gallery's Art Consultant Anna Bromwich, who supplied them with information and artistic options.

"From then onwards it was an easy route", say the couple. "Anna sent us profiles and examples of the work of artists she thought suitable and worked within our budget. Between us, we decided that Jenny Morgan was ideal, and Anna contacted the artist on our behalf. We discussed sizes and content with Jenny, the Clipper Venture Company helped with images, and very quickly the finished picture was delivered, to the delight of all who saw it."

It's no surprise that the clients chose Jenny Morgan to create the piece. She is known for her expertise and commitment to the accurate portrayal of ships, as well as the rendering of ‘the untamed element of the sea and its inspiring changing moods’. These two motifs are married together in The Great Britain Clipper, where we see a true likeness of the racing yacht in action, built for speed and adaptability, and facing the challenges the ocean throws at her. Coincidentally, members of Jenny’s family had participated in a similar ocean race, so she was familiar with the adrenaline of racing through their accounts, which she infused into the work itself through the movement of the crashing waves against the hardy vessel.

The clients presented the painting as a surprise gift to their son in the springtime of 2018. "It was very well received! It's not often that he is lost for words, and the concept proved to be a great success. The picture hangs in a prominent position in his home."

As Sir Knox-Johnston said, "you will never conquer or master the ocean, but you can endure it. Mother Nature is an unforgiving mistress, always with one last trick up her sleeve for you when you least expect it." This quote comes to life in The Great Britain Clipper, which serves as the perfect reminder of a great adventure on the waves.

The Great Britain Clipper by Jenny Morgan RSMA

Find out more about Mall Galleries' Marine Commissions

Commissioning a Portrait

Learn about commissioning portraiture with Annabel Elton, Mall Galleries' Commissions Consultant. Annabel will be on hand throughout the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition (10 - 25 May) to help visitors with their portrait enquiries, and to explain and advise on commissioning art. Visit the gallery to see the very best in contemporary portraiture, and have your commissions questions answered by a top expert in the field.

To find out more, visit

Commission Case Study: Old Harry Rocks

Old Harry Rocks by Jenny Morgan RSMA

A brief to paint a historical scene of Old Harry Rocks in Dorset is bought to life by Jenny Morgan RSMA.


Jenny Morgan, renowned for her accurate portrayal of historical vessels and mastery of painting water, became a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA) in 2009. This same year, coincidentally, Simon Hodgson first saw her work at a show in Cowes while sailing around the Isle of Wight, and was impressed by her oil painting of a Pilot Cutter. A collector of 18th and 19th century marine paintings, Simon was eager to turn a print from a book by Dominic Serres into an oil painting, so with the help of Mall Galleries art consultants, commissioned Jenny to bring his vision to life.

According to Jenny, ‘the scene typifies what one might view if about in Studland Bay in, say, circa 1790. This was a safe anchorage from westerly winds and shows a sloop-ship (main vessel centre) preparing to sail off on a mission once two officers have boarded, shown in the foreground where the ship’s boat is being rowed by seamen.’ To the left, a frigate (a 17th Century term for warships built for speed and maneuverability) approaches the bay to anchor and receive orders. The piece is infused with the anticipation and action of the Napoleonic Wars.

Not only is the scene historically interesting, but the setting of Old Harry Rocks, the most easterly point of the Jurassic coast and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, holds meaning for him. ‘I have known the chalk cliffs of this part of the Dorset Coast for most of my life. For the past twelve years, I’ve spent a great deal of time walking towards those cliffs and waking up seeing them in the distance. I am aware of the history of smuggling in the area: a history that continues today with Border Force Cutters anchoring under the cliffs where they are hidden from the view of the vessels crossing the channel. There are also memories of sailing there with my father, rowing ashore for a drink in the Bankes Arms and sailing back into Poole at dusk. Indeed, I taught my youngest daughter to sail under those cliffs, and both daughters have ridden horses along the beach. We have walked our dogs along the shore, and listened to the deer calling across the heath as the sun sets when no one else was around.’ It is an area Simon associates with significant and happy moments of his life.

Simon and Jenny share this tenderness for the stunning chalk stacks of Old Harry and Old Harry’s Wife. ‘I used to sail to Studland Bay and Poole during the 1970s so know the area well and have anchored many times in the same bay,’ says Jenny. ‘Sadly due to much erosion over the eras, all that remains of these stacks nowadays is a mere stump, but the bay is there off the Dorset Coast, an area of outstanding natural beauty ashore.’ Simon is pleased with the outcome of his commission and eager to find the perfect place for it to hang and remind him of the immense beauty and intriguing history Old Harry Rocks.

Mall Galleries Art Consultants guide you through the process of commissioning.  With their extensive knowledge and experience they help you choose an artist, oversee contracts and facilitate a neutral mediation between client and artist throughout. Get in touch to discuss your own commissions project today.


Talk to our art consultants


By Anna Preston

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Old Harry Rocks by Jenny Morgan RSMA

Toby Ward on Painting Architecture

Toby Ward talks us through his commissions for St-Martin-in-the-Fields, the Royal Opera House and Lincoln Cathedral.

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St Martins in the Fields by Toby Ward Church Art Commission

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Chastleton House by Toby Ward NEAC

Melissa Scott-Miller talks House Portraits

In this episode of our series of artist talks, Commissioning Conversation, Melissa Scott-Miller talks about painting portraits of Islington houses, the view from the roof of John Lewis and the client who wanted Santa Claus painted into the picture. 



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Islington Street with Wysteria by Melissa Scott-Miller NEAC RP

Still Lifes by A Portrait Painter

Fiddler's Hill Nest by Miriam Escofet AssocRP Still Life Commissions

Miriam Escofet AssocRP talks about the Still Lifes she painted using her client's collections of objects


Fiddler's Hill Nest

The owner of this painting lives in a farm in Wiltshire. He particularly admired one of my previous paintings on the theme of a bird’s nest and wanted something very similar, but very particularly depicting certain eggs and insects from his collection. As a child he would collect bird’s eggs with his father and he has very fond memories of this, they amassed quite an impressive selection of all kinds of eggs, kept in old tobacco tins and cushioned with tufts of wool. Most of the eggs in the painting come from his collection. The inclusion of a death head moth and other British butterflies were also specific requests.


Inkwells on Blue

This commission was loosely based on a previous still life painting also on the theme of inkwells and drawing implements. The painting combines objects belonging to the clients with objects from my own still life materials. It is somewhat based on Dutch Golden Age still life paintings in terms of lighting and layout and later was used in a photo-shoot for Wallpaper* magazine on the theme of Patrick Caulfield’s paintings.



Hear Miriam talking about her commissioned work in our series of Artist Talks Commissioning Conversation


An artwork commission is a personalised experience that is different for everyone, at Mall Galleries we employ Commission Consultants to guide you through the process of commissioning an artwork from choosing an artist to choosing an artwork that is suitable for your home or business.

If you would like to find out more information regarding commissioning an artwork or book a private consultation, click here.


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Inkwells on Blue by Miriam Escofet AssocRP Still Life Commissions

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Fiddler's Hill Nest by Miriam Escofet AssocRP

A ceramics collection as the basis of a still life

Interior with Ceramics by Charles Hardaker RBA Still Life Ceramics Collection Commission

One of our most touching commissions at Mall Galleries was a wedding gift of a highly personal still life painting using the couple’s ceramics collection.  The wedding gift had taken the form of a gift voucher contributed to by the couple’s friends and presented by Mall Galleries in a white gift box containing literature on how to begin the process of commissioning.   The couple decided that what they would like to do is commission an artist to respond to their ceramics collection and having looked through our Artist Explorer resource, they came up with Charles Hardaker. Charles was more than responsive to the commission and as his studio wasn’t too far away, the couple dropped off several of their ceramics pieces for him to work with.  The painting that came out of the commission was in Charles’ typical modernist style with muted colours and a door opening towards the light.

Portrait of a Family House

Mill Farm by Graham Webber ROI House portrait Commissions

For her husband’s birthday, Monica Tudor commissioned a portrait of their Oxfordshire farmhouse, which was soon to go on the market, by artist Graham Webber ROI.  Monica wanted the house depicted in spring time but she needed a gift to present to her husband on his birthday in late winter.  Mall Galleries sent Monica a commissions gift box announcing the commission, explaining how in the coming months the artist would arrive onsite to paint the farmhouse in full bloom along with examples of Graham’s portfolio.

Monica explains the experience in her own words below:

“With the approaching milestone of my husband's 60th and impending sale of our much loved home, I decided that a portrait of our house would be an inspired idea.  But where to start?  Google just brought up hundreds of names which meant nothing and as a result things were beginning to look gloomy.  However, in amongst the gloom, I came across the Mall Galleries and decided that they would be a good point at which to start.  How right I was!

Their website alone is inspiring.  It provides you with a list of all their members with photographic examples of their works, enabling you to choose the artist with the style that you are looking for.  Anna Bromwich could not have been more helpful, guiding me through the process and providing me with a lovely 'gift box' to present the birthday boy.

The actual execution of the 'gift' was a wonderful experience - liaising with the artist to decide on which season to choose, meeting him on the day and watching the creation of the "working sketch" on sight was fascinating.  The whole family is thrilled with the result.

The experience was so enjoyable and seamlessly organised by Anna from start to finish. Highly recommended!”


                            - Monica Tudor, 2016

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Mill Farm by Graham Webber ROI House portrait Commissions

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Mill Farm by Graham Webber ROI