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Daniher portrait

Marc McGowan  December 18, 2017 9:28 AM

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Neale Daniher and Joe Daniher raise awareness for MND.

An artist who painted AFL great Neale Daniher has pledged to donate her $100,000 reward to motor neurone disease research if she wins the prestigious Archibald Prize next year.

Daniher's personal battle with the disease and willingness to share his experiences and be the face for FightMND has endeared him to people in and outside the AFL community.

He helped the foundation raise $20.6 million in the past three years, which will go towards research and trials to find a cure, from events such as the Big Freeze and Daniher's Drive.

Lisa Axiotis, a Melbourne artist, spent about 120 hours capturing the former Essendon footballer and Demons coach's likeness in a "hyper-realistic" portrait on a transparent rather than canvas surface.

The 31-year-old, who has a background in animation and degree in digital arts, named the portrait 'Reverence', a twist on Daniher's nickname 'The Reverend'.

"If you look at his eyes, there's real strength there," Axiotis told AFL.com.au.

"Looking at all the photos for reference that my friend Oli Sansom took (of Daniher); I wanted one where his eyes were piercing and just looked at you with intent, like he knew something you didn't.

"Yeah, there's this horrendous, horrible thing he's going through, but he hasn't let that stop him, in the way some people probably would expect.

"I just feel like he's using that in the best way possible and shows a real strength of character, and that's what I wanted to show in the painting – he's strong and we can learn from him."

Daniher said it was a "humbling" experience to see the final product and admitted to being overwhelmed at Axiotis' proposal to donate her prize.

If no Archibald recognition is forthcoming, including the minor awards, she also offered to give Daniher the 106cm x 162cm artwork to auction. 

"It's amazing and I'm very happy with it, but being a novice, I've got no idea what a painter goes through and does," Daniher said.

"I wish I knew a bit more about it, because I would appreciate it a lot more if I'd done a little bit of art beyond crayon in grade four.

"I feel uncomfortable about all the prizemoney going to the foundation – she's a young mother and she's done the painting – so we'll work something out, where a certain amount goes to the foundation."

But Axiotis, who described her Daniher depiction as her best painting to date, said the chance to make such a sizeable contribution to the MND cause was a privilege.

Her work will be displayed in the Art Gallery of New South Wales if the judges select it as one of the Archibald Prize finalists.

"I'm hoping it gets selected as a finalist and is in the running for the win, because it's great to get in, but a win for me means I donate $100,000," she said.

"A win for me is bigger than me, because it feels more like a win for us. Neale has been in this process from the beginning." 

FightMND has also contributed $2.5 million, on top of the money given to research and trials, to help patients living with the debilitating disease.