New Portrait of Alan Turing

“A Great science fiction detective story”
Ian Watson, author of The Universal Machine

Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

Days to Centenary: 99 

Aside: Regulars know that my novel Luck and Death at the Edge of the World includes a posthumous appearance of sorts by Alan Turing.  Luck and Death inspired this blog, but its synthetic human bodies also inspired Homo Artificialis, the Science and Culture of Artificial Humanity, a blog that  focuses on cybernetics, biomaterials, prosthetics and implants, nanotechnology, and other areas of science that could, in theory, contribute to synthetic bodies which might be animated by Turing-type AIs or used as replacement bodies for those of us whose  consiousness was created the old fashioned way.  More about the blog in a new post on my  main page, here, the HA blog itself is here and more information about the novel is here.

Now — on to the Alan Turing in the real world.

We haven’t visited with a Turing Elf in quite some time on this blog — Turing Elves being people who produce Turing-related works (artistic, scientific, or otherwise) without any official status.  They work by their own lights, driven by their own motivations, often without any compensation, and then share what they’ve produced with the rest of us.

The tradition, as I’ve written before, goes back at least as far as Andrew Hodges, Turing’s finest biographer:

… the original Turing Elf has to have been Andrew Hodges, who is now a member of the Advisory Committe, but long before the Alan Turing Year was dreamt of he published Alan Turing: The Enigma (1983). His book  contributed critically to Turing’s rise from relative obscurity among the general public to something rather better than obscurity today — something bordering on fame, at least as far as awesome mathematicians experience it — and I have to imagine that it was a lonely thing indeed to have been a Turing Elf in those days.

This blog itself, of course, is a work of Turing Elvery, and in its posts we’ve seen their work in such areas as music [here and here] and visual art [here and here].

Today we revisit the visual arts with Maxime Xavier, a painter from Dorset who has produced a new and imaginative portrait of Alan Turing.

Maxime Xavier and portrait of Alan Turing

Maxime Xavier and her portrait of Alan Turing

Ms. Xavier reports that the National Portrait Gallery now wants to hang the painting and that she has been contacted by Bletchley Park, which might want to show it.

There doesn’t appear to be a crisp, detailed reproduction of the portrait on the internet as yet, but it’s a surrealistic image, stylistically and compositionally somewhat reminiscent of Magritte, that includes not only Turing himself, but a turbulent sea, an apple, a German U-boat being bombed by a British aircraft, and an Enigma coding machine being tossed on the waves.

It’s difficult to judge the painting’s quality in a low-res image, but from what I can see it looks intriguing and possibly quite good.  I hope a better reproduction of it will be available online soon for those of us who can’t visit Ms. Xavier in Dorset to see the original.

So welcome to the ranks of the Turing Elves Ms. Xavier — we hope you enjoy your stay.

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One Response to New Portrait of Alan Turing

  1. Stuart McLean says:

    Having just seen the real thing in Lyme Regis I can confirm that it is extremely good – much better than it appears in the photograph. It’s a shame, though – Maxime says that Bletchley Park aren’t interested and the National Gallery do not want to display it, as it does not meet their requirements for paintings being taken from still life. She has not been able to find a home for it anywhere else so, sadly, it still sits in her studio in Lyme Regis.

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