Thursday 16 May 2024

The Portrait

 It seems the nation (well, those who take an interest in such things) is split down the middle on the subject of the recent portrait of King Charles by Jonathan Yeo.

I will come straight out with it - I love it.

The Divine Right of Kings has thankfully disappeared into Antiquity but Queen Elizabeth II was catapulted into her role in a totally different age to the one we live in now.  She tried hard to come across as a 'woman of the people' but I think she sometimes found it difficult.  I think we must realise that however hard we try we can't imagine the life they, the Royal Family, lead.    She was a figurehead and worked jolly hard throughout her life to live up to the standards she had set herself.

King Charles waited a long time to take over her role.   Prestige, money, privilege, trecking about the World always in one's best clothes or worse still Dress Unif orms - the life of a King is not all it is cracked up to be - always on display, always on one's best behaviour (we'll ignore the tussle with the pen), every tiff, every action likely to become headline news if one puts a foot wrong.   And add to this in the case of HM cancer, close family eruptions disturbing the water and a past life that was by no means 'plain sailing.'

I think (whether I believe in having a Royal Family or not) that the King is doing his absolute level best.

Most past Royal Portraits and indeed those of so-called 'important figures' , have been on the whole a bit wooden**.   Holbein's Henry VIII - like many earlier portraits of Kings and Queens = shows nothing at all about character.   It just shouts out loud and clear - I'm the King and don't mess with me - the face shows nothing of what the man is really like.

And here Yeo has given us - standing out so clearly that is is almost painful to see - the man.   His seventy odd years are etched into his face - his years at a hated school,  his unhappy marriage, his struggle to find a role for himself and the sudden transformation of a love for Nature, for wild life, and a marriage to the woman he truly loved.

I think Jonathan Yeo has captured it all so well.   All the King's troubles and family worries have become public knowledge - not an easy burden to bear.    The face of the King in this portrait I think gives true meaning to the phrase 'A picture is worth a thousand words'.   You have only to look at that face to know for certain that for all his money,  all his privileges, he is - like all of us - a Human Being - has lived through all life's ups and downs and weathered them.  

One things is for sure.   Yeo has - in that face - and those hands - shown us the real man - not the king but a man like the rest of us who has suffered 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' and pulled through.   Oh and, by the way, that Monarch butterfly on his right shoulder (I understand suggested by the King himself) is a stroke of genius.

**   I rather think that in the seventies Graham Sutherland's portrait of Winston Churchill was chopped up and burnt by Lady Churchill because looking at it gave Churchill such distress.



41 comments:

Ursula said...

To just pick up on one of your points: The now King had a long wait to become what he was groomed for.

I was appalled that his mother wouldn't abdicate in favour of her son who was groomed for the role. ALL HIS LIFE. Always in the shadow.

However, to keep things in perspective: Maybe she didn't trust him - a questionable position for any mother. Or, maybe, best case scenario, she wanted to protect her first born from all the hollowness that being a figure head of an "Empire" brings.

Talking of "Empire". The portrait painter, possibly in an ironic way, depicted same by drawing rivers of blood.

U

the veg artist said...

I also like the portrait. All about the face, with his life experience etched in, which, I believe, was also the problem with the Sutherland portrait. It was too realistic of the man as he was when he was painted, not how he saw himself. I don't suppost many of us see ourselves exactly as others see us, after all. The Royals have had their images forced on them all their lives, wrinkles and all, poor things.

Librarian said...

It's a work of art and therefore subject to interpretation. I wouldn't want to put it on the wall in my fat, but then of course I have no personal connection whatsoever to the person portrayed.
That this portray is more honest than the glorified images of old (and not so old) of "important" people is certainly a good thing. And I certainly do not envy any of the Royal Family their lives. I am rather just "me", with all that entails.

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Good morning, Weave. I like the butterfly as an added touch. My only criticism is it just seems a bit like a floating head in amongst all of that red. Mind you, I've never had my portrait done, so what do I know? -Jenn

Anonymous said...


I know nothing about the interpretation of art. But it is interesting to read what others think of the portrait. Jackie

Susan said...

The Royal family carries so much responsibility in the public eye and this has to be most difficult day-in, day out. How many of us could possibly withstand such scrutiny. As for the portrait, I like the the portrait but not the color chosen.

Tom Stephenson said...

I quite like it, but too much red in one place for me. I think that Velasquez portraits are the absolute best. You can see into their souls and psyche through their eyes. I am all for Charles and his mother, especially when compared to career politicians who fought hard to get their positions.

thelma said...

There are two people involved - the artist and the person depicted. So the choice by Charles of Yeo was deliberate. It is a striking portrait whether you like the colour red or not. I like the butterfly, Charles has always been 'green' and his love of nature will be recorded for posterity.

Granny Sue said...

My instant reaction was, "He's floating in a sea of blood." It is hard for me to get beyond all that red. Yes, the face is beautifully done, as are the hands. But all that blood. Looks like an advert for a horror film.

gmv said...

Such a lovely perspective of King Charles and the new portrait.

Carolyn said...

Well said Weaver. I love the portrait. I see a human, a man, not perfect, but doing his best even on his worst days, and like every one of us, not always successfully. A man trying to make sense of a sometimes incomprehensible and heartbreaking world, and finding his pathway through it. The red, to me, symbolizes life, with all its pain and joy and horrors, and no one, not even a future king can escape it.

Jennyff said...

I think it’s magnificent. A modern contrast to the usual formal portraits but still dignified and a true reflection of our king.

Damselfly said...

Striking portrait for all the reasons you listed, Weaver.
I also like Carolyn's take on it as well.

Melinda from Ontario said...

Everything you said about Charles was spot on. Even so, I failed to see the artist's need to obscure him behind layers of red. It reminded me of the fable, "The Emperor's New Clothes". There's a part of me that feels I should trust the artist's vision and another part wants to shout, "What's with the red?"

Rachel Phillips said...

I think he has got the likeness of Charles very well but I cannot get my head around the red and it looks to me like the head is floating on its own without a proper background and it is shouting out for a contrast. It is a great opportunity for a wonderful portrait which has just not worked for me. Unless, that is, it looks totally different in the flesh. I have only seen it on my phone. I like Holbein's portrait paintings.

Caz.P. said...

Head and hands floating in blood. A statement of what the Empire was ? Couldn't the artist draw bodies?

Tasker Dunham said...

I like the portrait and I like the man. I like what you say too. It occurred to me that if he were a blogger writing about his everyday struggles he would have thousands of followers. I cannot agree with Ursula at all on this.

Barbara Anne said...

From the other side of the pond (and I have no dog in this hunt, as is said here in the South!), I also like the portrait of King Charles and have admired the man and most of his choices for most of my life.

Well said, Weave!!

Hugs!

Heather said...

It is an unusual portrait but an excellent likeness of our King and the butterfly is a lovely touch. As royal portraits go it must be one of the best, but I too am a little puzzled by so much red though it doesn't suggest blood to me.
This latest post of yours is also excellent Pat. You express my own feelings far better than I can.

Ellen D. said...

I've always liked him and I like this portrait of him.

gz said...

Whatever one thinks about him, his wife is right...the artist has captured him well

Susan said...

I am impressed by the potrait. I think it will look magnificent on the grand staircase. I hope that is where it is going because having trotted up the stairs last year it could do with something to liven it up.
If it challenges the idea of protraiture I think it is a good thing. Holbein was perfect for his time but this is the 21st century and royal portraits should be of their time. Warmest wishes xxx

Red said...

I haven't seen the photo you are commenting on. I do know that Charles probably went through more hell than most of us.

anonymous said...

Weave,I agree with your assessment that Charles is doing his absolute level best. His father pressured him into marrying Diana,so he couldn't marry
the love of his life, Camilla until after the public decided he was a cad for allowing his unhappiness being married to Diana to become public knowledge.I don't think people in general know the weight those whose every aspect of life is open to public scrutiny carry . As always it's great to see a new post from you, wishing you all that is good,-Mary

The Weaver of Grass said...

It is four o'clock in the morning. I have had six hour's sleep and got up to make myself a cup of tea then couldn't resist looking to see what you have all said!

Many thanks to all of you for your comments and opinions - I enjoyed hearing your views - most of you seem to like it. There's nothing wrong with not liking it - that is not what art is about. However you look at any work of art you have to realise it is one person's "take" on the subject and every one person sees the world through different eyes. If we all felt the same about any work of art the world would be a very dull place.

I would love to see the picture rather than a photograph of it. I suspect it would look very different. OFF BACK TO BED NOW.

THANK YOU ALL FOR GIVING ME SUCH A GOOD READ SO EARLY IN THE MORNING;

Janie Junebug said...

I like the portrait, too. I like the colors. I'm not expert on art, but I like the way everything blends together and the way Charles is portrayed. I find it more interesting than the typical portrait.

Love,
Janie

Cro Magnon said...

I too like the portrait; Yeo is a good painter. But like Rachel I do find the all red unnecessary. I have occasionally accepted portrait commissions myself, but would never have flooded the canvas in a single colour.

Virginia said...

I like the portrait, and I have always sympathised with poor Prince/King Charles and the huge difficulties he experienced from such an early age. The red background of the portrait reminds me of the wildfire that Brexit has caused, the dissolution of 'the Empire' and the enormous difficulties the "United" Kingdom faces now. And of course of the huge problems caused by climate change , that Charles is so well aware of. And in the midst of it all stands Charles, being stoic, being true to himself.

Sue said...

I find the 'redness' of it a bit overpowering but your words are making me look at it in a new light. You are very perceptive Pat, but then I knew that already. xx

Anonymous said...

After the initial shock of the red, first thing I noticed is his hand appears out of proportion (too large) and the pigment seems darker than what is natural. Maybe he has extremely large dark hands. I keep going back and looking at it. Same reaction every time. Didn’t he have to approve it before presentation?

Anonymous said...

I've always liked King Charles but I didn't like the painting.
I felt repelled by all that hot pink
No disrespect intended but at first glance the painting reminded me of The Wizard of Oz.
Just a head projected amongst flames. Really couldn't get past that.
Elsie

The Weaver of Grass said...

The King has large, puffy hands (almost 'workman's hands') and the artist has not shied away from that.

As for the background - I think one needs to see the painting rather than a photograph of it in order to judge the background which I suspect is rather diffeerent from how it seems. Yeo is a very experienced portrait painter who has painted many famous figures and I think we can be assured that whatever he has done here he has done for a purpose.

Art has to keep up with the age - and the age of the wooden, over-posed picture has thank goodness gone.

John Going Gently said...

I’m not sure why the red is there but I will always remember the painting and it’s painter

The Weaver of Grass said...

Like your reply John.

Anonymous said...

I personally love the painting .. because it is a modern twist on Royal portraiture. And I agree, the red is such a departure from what we expect from a portrait, it was bound to be polarising.

Traveller said...

I think it is an excellent portrait. I think the use of all that red is very clever

I have no views on the man himself as I have never met him so have no idea what he is like. I do think the idea of a monarchy in the C21st is somewhat ridiculous and the idea of having to bow or courtesy to someone because of who their parents were is ludicrous. I do, however, think it is an awful job to have. The job of Pope is also awful but at least you apply for that.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Traveller - I am pleased you put a comment on. I tried to get to your site but had no luck so presume you read rather than post. I do agree with what you say - we obviously have the same views.

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for your blog. I've been reading for a while - but thought I should comment now to say thankyou for all your stories and descriptions (I live in Paris now and it is a breath of fresh air to hear you talk about life back in the UK in the countryside). I like the story about the Churchill portrait. I looked it up. I can see why Churchill didn't like it and why it got destroyed (by his secretary/butler in fact, but with his wife's approval). It made him look very old and he complained it made him look like he was trying to take a p++p while sitting in his armchair (which I guess it kind of did! though it wasnt the first thing that came to my mind when I saw it!) - more importantly though, it hadn't really been Churchill's idea in the first place to have a portrait done as far as I understood it, it was a "gift" from parliament. And yes, I agree with you, the Yeo portrait is very interesting - has depth and strength to it, though I ultimately find it too sad. Cathy.

Marianne said...

I am in the Cotswolds for a week and enjoying the dry weather so far. So many wild flowers growing with lots of color. The portrait is about new and now, a good sentiment for the king. Hope you are doing ok

Regina M. said...

Weave, it's May 24th, and soon to depart to June......I want you to know that I am thinking of you and sending you hugs and warm wishes. From the base of the mini-mountain in Maine where it's beautiful, warm, and all critters are about. I just love to have the windows open, especially at night, to hear them. Warmest wishes to you. Regina

Linda said...

I too like the portrait. Very thought provoking.