New portrait of DNA fingerprinting pioneer to feature in exhibition of prominent scientists

Posted by fi17 at Dec 05, 2011 10:45 AM |
Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, inventor of DNA fingerprinting, sits for a portrait by artist Tess Barnes as part of upcoming collection
New portrait of DNA fingerprinting pioneer to feature in exhibition of prominent scientists

Tess Barnes paints Professor Jeffreys in his office in the Department of Genetics

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office, Monday 5 December 2011

Portrait artist Tess Barnes has visited the University of Leicester to paint a portrait of Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys for an upcoming exhibition entitled 'Drawn to Science'. The exhibition will feature portraits of prominent and famous scientists, including Professor Jeffreys, who invented DNA fingerprinting in 1984.

Tess Barnes is in the process of completing the portraits for the collection. Dates and location for the exhibition have not yet been confirmed.

Tess Barnes painted the portrait of Professor Jeffreys in his office in the University's Department of Genetics. Professor Jeffreys sat for two hours at a time, whilst Barnes captured his image in oil paints on a linen canvas. The 24" x 30" portrait took four sessions to complete.

"When Tess first approached me, I was a little bit nervous about sitting still for two-hour sitting sessions," Professor Jeffreys said. "I'm a busy person and I want to get on with my science. But I have to say, it's been an absolute delight - surprisingly so."

Professor Jeffreys invented DNA fingerprinting in his lab at the University of Leicester in 1984, in what he described as a 'eureka moment'. Looking at DNA samples of his lab technician and her parents, he suddenly realised that the human genetic code provided a way of uniquely identifying each individual - literally a genetic fingerprint. DNA fingerprinting is now used all over the world in criminal cases as well as paternity and immigration disputes.

Tess Barnes is a portrait artist who has painted and drawn such famous figures as Carol Vorderman, Beverley Knight, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, and Michael Portillo. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and was Artist in Residence at the Royal Institution from July 2009 until July 2011. In 2008 she launched a major solo exhibition entitled 'Women of Substance', featuring 50 portraits of famous and influential women.

"It was incredibly successful and fantastic," Barnes said. "But I didn't think I'd do another one. Then I became artist in residence at the Royal Institution and we started talking about an exhibition."

The idea for 'Drawn to Science' evolved from there, and Barnes contacted influential scientists and asked them to sit for portraits.

"I've got quite a number of prominent scientists involved, and they're absolutely wonderful to paint," Barnes said.

Asked about the experience of having his portrait painted, Professor Jeffreys said: "Tess is a lovely person and we chat about this that and the other - I wouldn't say we solve all the problems of the world but we get part of the way there! It's been a very interesting experience. The whole notion of sitting in my office and doing essentially nothing for two hours at a time is unheard of. So it's been a real pleasure. I'm going to miss it."



Notes for editors:

Large images of the portrait painting session are available from 

Further details about Tess Barnes and her work can be seen on her website,

For more information, contact Tess Barnes on 020 7924 4279 or email

As Tess Barnes spends much of her time out of the office, journalists are advised to either leave a message or contact her by email to arrange a good time to call.

We are unable to offer interviews with Professor Jeffreys at this time.


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