Randy Jones, publisher of Worth , Equity and Civilization , is a man with a healthy, oversize ego. That ego is housed in an enormous apartment with a grandiose, double-height living room on East 57th Street. But since Mr. Jones, 43, cleared out his building’s elevator shaft to lift a 48-by-66-inch portrait of himself into that living room in February, the painting has dwarfed the publisher and his big-man apartment.
On Feb. 25, Mr Jones explained jokingly to the guests he had invited to the portrait’s unveiling-Diandra Douglas, Lise and Richard Stolley, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Mario Buatta and Anne Slater, among others-that in Sacha Newley, the portraitist who is the son of Joan Collins and Anthony Newley, he has found a larger ego. “I just want you to understand that this is a reflection of the size of the artist’s ego, not the subject’s ego,” said Mr. Jones of his reaction the first time he came face-to-face with the portrait.
Even the invitation to the unveiling, sent out by Mr. Jones and his wife Connie Jones, directs all the attention to Mr. Newley, 33, who grew up in London and studied the portraits done by Rembrandt and Velázquez, the two artists who invented the modern portrait, on his own. “I have always been very stubborn and don’t take instruction well,” he told The Observer about his lack of art schooling.
He has been painting since he was 19, but became serious about portraits in 1994 after having Gore Vidal as a subject. Around that time, he moved to Los Angeles, where he still lives. He has also painted Sir Nigel Hawthorne in his role as King George III from the movie The Madness of King George , Oliver Stone, Billy Wilder, and his father and mother, twice. His only famous work to date is the portrait of Dominick Dunne that appeared on the back cover of the author’s 1997 book about the O.J. Simpson trial, Another City, Not My Own .
The Dunne portrait shows the author hunched over his notes in a light reminiscent of a 15th-century Flemish painting even though it was painted in the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood in 1997. Mr. Newley was introduced to Mr. Dunne by his mother, and started to paint his portrait the day that the Simpson trial ended. “I think we had four or five sittings,” said Mr. Dunne. “I found that I couldn’t just sit there and have my picture done.… I said, ‘I have to work.’ I was writing my final piece on the O.J. trial. I wrote in longhand.”
“As soon as I saw him starting to write, I knew that was the pose I wanted,” said Mr. Newley. “So I just said, ‘Dominick, continue writing while I paint.’ So that’s how we got the pose, which I think showed everything he had been through.”
Mr. Jones, also a friend of Ms. Collins, admired the Dunne portrait. “I thought, this is a guy who knows how to capture the masculinity of a male,” he said. “So many of those society portrait artists give you that impressionistic look and you can’t even recognize who it is in the picture. That was not what I wanted. I wanted somebody who captured the real me.”
Mr. Jones had had another portrait painted by Robert Bruce Williams in 1996, which he has never hung. “He has painted my children and I love them,” said Mr. Jones. “I didn’t feel like he captured me. I had orange skin rather than ruddy red skin. It just didn’t work for me.”
Mr. Newley was interested in depicting Mr. Jones in his environment-that is, until he became more interested in the environment than Mr. Jones. “When I first walked into that room, it took my breath away,” said Mr. Newley of the Jones living room. “The ceilings are so vaulted. I love that sense of space and the huge windows that you could see the skyscrapers through. I said, I want to do a painting that captures that sense of space and celebrates it as part of this man’s life, part of what he has achieved. Because I think that space is the great luxury.”
Mr. Jones had no idea what was going through Mr. Newley’s mind as he made sketches of him in his apartment. “He came here using 9-by-12-inch canvases to make sketches with and then he went back to Los Angeles to finish his painting,” Mr. Jones recalled. “I didn’t see anything until he was finished.”
“Usually, I make the sitter the most prominent part of the picture. This time, I decided to make the sitter and the environment as one entity, the subject of the painting,” said Mr. Newly. “That’s why I went very big with it. I had been looking at the Cartier-Bresson photographs and what I find so exciting is his composition, the way that he frames the subject often quite low in the frame and then gives you a sense of the world in which they live.”
The result is a Citizen Kane -style portrait of success: a cozy domestic scene of Mr. Jones sitting at home on a gold sofa, dressed in a dark gray suit and pearl gray waistcoat in an amber light, the empire-builder room rising all around him. Given the size of the canvas, Mr. Jones considers it to have been a bargain at $15,000, which is about the going rate for a portrait.
“If you are a Southerner, it is instilled in you, because family lineage is so important, that you have to have your portrait painted,” said Mr. Jones. “I had been encouraged to have it done before I went to total hell in a handbasket. So it is strictly for posterity. Maybe the kids will want it one day.”
Mr. Jones said he does not intend to exhibit the portrait in public, but he does nonetheless have some new anecdotes. “It was supposed to go up the staircase to the library and the minstrel’s gallery … We may have to cut some of the molding out [to fit it in],” said Mr. Jones.
“I could fit a grand piano into my apartment, but I couldn’t fit my own portrait.”