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King Charles' 'contemporary' new portrait divides royal fans

The monarch unveiled the painting by Jonathan Yeo at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday

Danielle Stacey
Online Royal CorrespondentLondon
15 May 2024
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The King unveiled the first completed official portrait of himself since the coronation at Buckingham Palace – and royal fans have been quick to share their own thoughts.

The painting by British artist Jonathan Yeo, depicts Charles wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, of which he was made Regimental Colonel in 1975.

The red hue of the regiment was painted over much of the portrait, which also included a butterfly hovering over the King's shoulder, added in by the artist at Charles' suggestion.

The painting sparked varied reactions from royal fans in the comments on social media. 

One follower said: "I think this is beautiful and such a break from the traditional portraits."

Jonathan Yeo's portrait of King Charles© Jonathan Yeo
Jonathan Yeo's portrait of King Charles

Another agreed: "Love the artistry! Clever and innovative! Personally I love the focus on his face… my wish, as much as it shows the strength of the King's character it also shows compassion and love."

While a third added: "A lovely portrait of King Charles! I love the way the muted background draws attention to his face!"

Others were less sure of the dramatic red hue, commenting: "I would have loved this if it was any other color than red. He really captured the essence of him in the face, but the harshness of the red doesn't match the softness of his expression."

Another jested: "It shall henceforth be known as: 'the Strawberry jam portrait'."

See the King's reaction to the artwork in the video below... 

WATCH: King Charles unveils first official portrait since coronation

Talking about his inspiration for the painting, Jonathan Yeo said that he felt like this portrait should have more of a "dynamic and contemporary feel".

The piece was first commissioned in 2020 to celebrate the then Prince of Wales's 50 years as a member of The Drapers' Company in 2022.

After pulling off the cover at the unveiling at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, the King said: "It is remarkable actually how it has turned out."

King Charles and Jonathan Yeo stand in front of portrait© Alamy
The King unveiled the portrait painted by Jonathan Yeo

Speaking at the event, Jonathan said they discussed how it would be "nice to have a narrative element which referenced his passion for nature and environment" and he spoke of how Charles "changed jobs halfway through the process" and the butterfly is a "symbol of metamorphosis" so it "tells multiple stories".

Charles then joked: "It's nice to know I was a chrysalis when you first met me," which was met with laughter.

The King had four sittings with the artist, beginning when Charles was Prince of Wales in June 2021 at Highgrove, and later at Clarence House. The last sitting took place in November 2023 at Clarence House.

Jonathan also worked from drawings and photographs he took of the King, allowing him to work on the portrait in his London studio between sittings.

Artist Jonathan Yeo, at the unveiling of artist Jonathan Yeo's portrait of the King© Alamy
Jonathan's previous subjects have included the late Queen and Prince Philip

The portrait will go on public display for a month at the Philip Mould Gallery in London, from May 16 until June 14 where entry is free. The artwork is expected to be displayed at Drapers' Hall in the City of London from the end of August.

Philip Mould said it is the "most progressive formal royal portrait" created for a "very long time".

He added: "As it's such an important image, it's quite exciting that the public has the opportunity to get close."

Philip said monarchy is about "continuity, a touch of divinity" and modern art is "edg" and added that it is "difficult to pull off both" but that Jonathan Yeo has done it.

LISTEN: Prince Harry sent Invictus Service tickets to dad King Charles and brother Prince William

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