The New York Times reviews A Year with MI6

Andrew Testa for The New York Times

LONDON — The mysterious oil painting entitled “Waiting in the Hotel Room” sold for a relatively modest $28,200 last week on the opening night of an exhibition in the upscale Mayfair district of London, where softly lighted galleries staffed by velvet-voiced staff members sell artworks that can fetch millions.

A painting in Mr. Hart Dyke’s studio. For the MI6 project, Mr. Hart Dyke spent a year following and sketching officers of the British spy agency.

But for all the painting’s apparent ordinariness — a man in a dark suit viewed from behind as he looks out through the net curtains of a plushly appointed room, his hands clasped and his head slightly tilted — it attracted the kind of attention here that would normally go to the sale of an old European master.

The artist, James Hart Dyke, has drawn favorable reviews for his past work, mainly his landscapes. But what put Mr. Hart Dyke in Britain’s headlines was that the dozens of paintings and watercolors on display at the Mount Street Galleries offered unprecedented glimpses into the world of the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as S.I.S. or MI6, which has never before permitted an outsider to make a graphic record of its hidden world.