IT'S A generous canvas, measuring 1.5 metres in length x 1.2 across - which makes perfect sense when the subject featured on it is the 206-centimetre dual Carlton Premiership ruckman Justin (‘Harry’) Madden.

Completed in late 2013 by Benjamin Crampton, and entered in the prestigious Archibald Prize, the portrait in oils, entitled “Justin Madden and the Featherstone Chair”, depicts a relaxed Madden casting an optimistic gaze through the glass-paned walls of the family hacienda to the verdant surrounds of his inner city abode.

The portrait recently found its way to IKON Park where it now hangs on a side wall of the club’s archive – a converted corporate box with sweeping views of the old ground. As such, the subject’s eyes peer through the box’s glassed frontage and out onto the middle of the revered Carlton oval, where the future Victorian Minister for Sport, Recreation and Commonwealth Games once plied his on-field craft against older brother Simon and sundry ruck types.

“Justin Madden and the Featherstone Chair” - Benjamin Crampton’s portrait

During the week, Benjamin’s parents David and Anne Crampton – both architects whose friendships with Madden and his wife Julie can be sourced to their old Uni days - shared details of the portrait’s provenance and of the roundabout way in which it found its new home.

“This all came not long after Benjamin completed his VCE and had put his University course in Architecture on hold,” David said.

“Benjamin had wanted to drop out of Uni as he’d been unwell with shingles and glandular fever since the end of Year 12. We’d tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t listen.

“He then came home one day and said ‘I want to paint a picture for the Archibald’s’, but I don’t know anyone accomplished other than Justin. Will he fit the bill?’. Now we were not sporty people, but we thought it was a good thing for Benjamin to keep active, so we got a friend with a ute to pick up a blank canvas from an art supply place in Brunswick and prop it up in the dining room.”

Anne recalled that her son twice visited the Maddens nearby premises to complete preliminary work with the subject, and in no time had amassed a portfolio of preliminary sketches and photographs of the subject.

“The portrait of Justin took a few months to complete,” Anne said. “Benjamin first sketched in pencil then worked with the oils, painting and sometimes repainting areas he didn’t like. In the end, I think he’s captured Justin’s size and his jovial nature.”

Benjamin submitted his portrait (and accompanying entry fee) for consideration in the lead-up to the 2014 Archibalds. The portrait was duly freighted to Sydney, but as with so many hundreds of portraits, failed to make the final cut - maybe because members of the Sydney-centric judging panel wouldn’t know Harry Madden from Harry Potter.

“Justin Madden and the Featherstone Chair” was subsequently returned to the artist, and on to Benjamin’s parents. The Cramptons offered the painting to Justin and Julie Madden, but the Maddens, being the grounded people that they are, politely declined – and the canvas was stored in a shed on the family property for the ensuing years.

In the end, David and Anne considered the Carlton Football Club as the right and proper home for “Justin Madden and the Featherstone Chair”.

“David and I are  in our 60s and we felt the need to de-clutter,” Anne said. “The canvas could have been painted over, which no-one wanted to do, and it seemed a real shame to get rid of it, so David thought Carlton might be worth contacting.”

Benjamin Crampton’s portrait in oil of Justin Madden now shares space with another at IKON Park – that of the fellow former ruckman John Nicholls. Painted by the regular Archibald Prize finalist the late Paul Fitzgerald AM, the work depicts Nicholls in the famous dark Navy Blue guernsey and clasping a football as he casts a steely gaze at the viewer.

Carlton ruckman John Nicholls painted by the late Paul Fitzgerald AM

The Nicholls portrait has been in Carlton’s keep since the paint dried in 1973 – and the Cramptons are delighted that their son’s portrait now shares wall space.

As Anne said: “It’s nice to know that the portrait has found a new home – a portrait that has captured the essence of Justin so well, with the long legs and the beaming smile”.

While the Featherstone chair remains in the Madden family’s keep, the subject of Crampton’s portrait was delighted the artwork had found its way to his former club.

“I’m very happy that the portrait is there,” Madden said. “It’s a very large piece and it was never going to be in any place I reside in because everyone in my family gets enough of me as it is.

“Ben was a budding artist, quite talented and he asked me if I he could paint a portrait.

“I said to him ‘Why not?’, as I didn’t want to put a dampener on the fact that most artists suffer for their art and that he’d probably end up suffering badly by painting me.”