Unveiling Ceremony of ‘The Herat Room’

Historic painting depicts key players of HQ ISAF IX, led by General Richards, in conference with the Afghan Minister of Defence, General Wardak, in December 2006.

The Herat Room by © Brendan Kelly

RUSI was honoured to host the recent unveiling of ‘The Herat Room’, a painting by Brendan Kelly. Amongst the many distinguished guests at the unveiling ceremony, which took place on Monday 29 September, were former Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne; Chief of the General Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt; Field Marshal the Lord Vincent; the British Ambassador in Kabul Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles; the Afghan ambassador in London, His Excellency Ahmad Wali Masoud; General Sir David Richards and Lady Caroline Richards.

This historically significant painting depicts key players of HQ ISAF IX, led by General Richards, in conference with the Afghan Minister of Defence, General Wardak, in December 2006. The work will be housed here at the institute until Christmas. During both the First and Second World Wars, RUSI was closely associated with the War Artists’ Advisory Committee, a body which commissioned paintings and photography of the violence in the battlefield as well as ordinary life on the home front. One landmark depiction of this activity – a great painting by Dame Laura Knight – hangs to this day in the institute.

From May 2006 to February 2007, HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) was deployed in Kabul, Afghanistan to command NATO operations as HQ International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). During HQ ARRC’s tour, the mission expanded to assume responsibility for operations throughout Afghanistan and was coincident with the deployment of UK Forces to Helmand Province. Significantly, this was the first time since the Second World War that a British General had commanded US troops in a combat role. By its end, over 32,000 troops from thirty-seven countries were operating across Afghanistan under a British commander.

It has long been military custom to commission works of art in order to record moments of historic importance. Stephen Lacey, art consultant and agent, was contacted by HQ ARRC regarding contemporary portrait painters. As a result, the prize-winning British artist, Brendan Kelly RP (Member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters) was subsequently commissioned to paint ‘The Herat Room’. The artist travelled to Kabul in December 2006 and spent two weeks in the Green Zone, painstakingly putting together the structure and composition of the painting. To view Mr Kelly’s website, please click here.

This event not only commemorated the ARRC’s tour as part of ISAF, but also provided an opportunity to view the photographic exhibition of Afghanistan by photographer Luke Cody, and sought to raise awareness of the efforts of the three recognised charities of the evening:

Help for Heroes

The Help for Heroes charity was formed in 2007 to raise money to support wounded members of the UK Armed Forces in their long battles towards rehabilitation and with rebuilding their lives. To visit their website, please click here.

Afghan Aid

Afghan Aid has worked alongside Afghan communities for over two decades. The charity currently works directly with over 500,000 adults and children, focusing on long-term sustainable development in rural areas. To visit their website, please click here.

Afghan Appeal

The charity was established in 2006 to raise understanding and awareness of the social, medical and educational issues facing the people of Afghanistan and to raise funds through the dedicated efforts of individuals, schools and groups to help improve these conditions. To visit their website, please click here.

Visitors to the institute may view ‘The Herat Room’, which is located on the second floor landing outside the RUSI Library, until Christmas whereupon it will return to the ARRC Officers’ Mess in Mönchengladbach, Germany. For more information on this event or the painting itself, please contact Kate Clouston on +44 (0)20 7747 2640 or katec@rusi.org.

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