Story 68

Spirituality and strength

At a dinner I happened to be seated next to Leonard Cheshire. I hadn't met him before. In comparison to the voluble guests around us he was almost taciturn, but my reaction was that I would love to paint this fascinating man.

June Mendoza's painting of Leonard

Extraordinarily it came to pass. Out of the blue I was asked to do a portrait of Leonard for his Foundation. During our sessions he was charming; we chatted, discussed, and occasionally he quietly meditated as I got on with work. We also had a gentle discussion about our relationships with religion — normally, with politics, subjects to be politely avoided.

Of all the hundreds of portraits I must have done in my life, it is Leonard who has left behind such strong and special vibes. There was this serene aura of spirituality and strength that I remember well, and savour.

One especially nice thing happened out of our finished portrait. Apart from treasuring the fact that I had painted and worked with the man, the painting was used as the base for an image of Leonard in a stained glass window in the chapel at the first Cheshire Home, Le Court. This window is now at Chatham House at Stowe, where Leonard went to school. I am delighted about this.

There was this serene aura of spirituality and strength that I remember well, and savour.