Queen Elizabeth stands on the spot where she had her coronation on June 2, 1953 in this Diamond Jubilee portrait. (© Ralph Heimans. Photo: Max Communications/Colin White)
Capturing Queen Elizabeth on canvas has always been a hit-and-miss proposition for artists.
She has sat for about 140-plus artists during her lifetime, each one looking to capture both the woman and the majesty. Most miss the mark in one way or another.
The latest entry, by 42-year-old Australian-born Ralph Heimans, scores high marks on almost every count.
The only official portrait of the monarch in her Diamond Jubilee year is an almost life-size 9x11-feet, capturing the Queen in a contemplative pose on the very spot where she was crowned in the Sacrarium at Westminster Abbey.
Heimans, who also did a portrait of Crown Princess Mary of Denmark in 2006, spent six months working on this canvas. The Queen sat for him in March in the Yellow Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace. He then used detailed photos the Abbey to create the majestic background to the work."She’s a beautiful subject to paint, she has a great face," said Heimans.
“Because she’s an old lady and has beautiful kind eyes, instantly when she approached I was at ease.... She’s amazingly vulnerable. I wanted to be very honest.”
The portrait was unveiled this week at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, Australia. It will be on display there until March, when it heads to London.
“Through the narrative of the portrait I wanted to produce a work of particular significance for the Diamond Jubilee," said Heimans. “By representing the Queen as she reflects on this incredible milestone in her life, I wanted to explore the dynamic between her public role and the personal, emotional dimension."
Did it work?
Well, the Queen never comments on her portraits publicly. Some reports, though, say the Palace is more than pleased. And judging by some of the comments on media sites in the UK, most are giving the portrait the thumbs up.
"What she's got here is a minutely painted, hyper-realist portrait of excellent technique, which places her on an historic spot of deep personal meaning," wrote Daily Mail art critic Godfrey Baker. "Some may say she looks downcast but I see reflection combined with optimism."
So, what do you think?