Opinion

Another Royal Portrait That Was the Subject of Controversy Sees the Light of Day

Left, John Napper's portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (1956) (Telegraph) and right, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, official portrait by artist Paul Emsley. (Photograph: NPG/Rex Features)
Left, John Napper’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (1956) (Telegraph) and right, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, official portrait by artist Paul Emsley. (Photograph: NPG/Rex Features)

Less than a week after the art world went into practical meltdown mode over Paul Emsley‘s portrait of Kate Middleton, the British Duchess of Cambridge, a controversial 1953 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by artist John Napper was carted out after decades in storage. Why now? Well they claim it is to celebrate the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee, but one wonders if it is also to deflect attention away from the Middleton artwork and perhaps a subtle way to remind people that many royal portraits don’t turn out all that great, particularly the early ones.

A blown up detail of the painting of Queen Elizabeth II that is on display again.
A blown up detail of the painting of Queen Elizabeth II that is on display again.

The 60-year-old painting, which was one of the first official paintings of Queen Elizabeth II, was universally rejected, even the artist (yes, the artist) famously said that it was “a beautiful painting of a queen, but not this Queen.” Ouch.

The artist died in 2001 but The Telegraph spoke to his widow, and she had this to say about the unfortunate portrait that has been trotted out again:

 “I remember the painting well. He was disappointed with the angle at which he painted it, he only had one sitting … I[t] was due to be hung up high so that you would look at it from below. If you looked at it from that angle it looked normal. … Then when they showed it they didn’t put it up high and then it didn’t look like the Queen.”

The painting will now permanently hang in Liverpool’s Town Hall, and let’s hope it’s hung very high.

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