A Meditation on Life and Death
Since 1996, de Cadenet has been creating an ongoing collection of his trademark
‘skull portrait’ photographs. Combining both subjective and objective elements,
these intimate records of the subject’s existance do not distinguish whether the
subject was alive or had passed away when the exposure was made of their head. In this sense they attempt to transcend the mortality of the subject.
The skulls encourage a contemplation of our essential identities - a universally
shared humanity beyond the world of form and the appearance of sex, race or age. In the tradition of ‘vanitas’ they explore the legacy that portraiture can leave behind beyond our mortal passing.
In addition to private commissions over the past twenty years there have been four distinct series of portraits produced, each with a slightly different focus. These include the Celebrity Series, the Religious Subjects Series, the Spies Series and the Historical Celebrity Series.
The most recent Historical Celebrity Series explores the nature of human
achievement and worldly fame. They are based on the actual forensic skull x-rays of some of the most famous and infamous subjects in history. These are subjects, who have already passed away and full frontal x-rays of them are in existence (either taken during their life or afterwards) and have been sourced especially for this series of portraits. These subjects include Pharoah Tutankhamun, Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Adolf Hitler and more recently King Richard III of England.
The skulls are an ongoing series with new subjects constantly being added to the
"In his skull portraits, de Cadenet is using modern art language and processes to communicate the vital spiritual teaching of death in a way that is relevant to our time"
Patrick Howe, author of 'The Awakened Artist', in Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine.
"The skull portraits tackle both the the idea of mortality and also the question of how we construe human identity"
Edward Lucie-Smith, 2016
"De Cadenet’s Skull Portraits re-energise the long histories of the painted vanitas….There is a ghoulish humour in de Cadenet’s jest with the skull image: these will persist, of course long after we become crematorium dust"
Sarah Wilson, professor at The Courtauld Institute of Art, (2010)