King Charles Unveils Official Portrait to Mixed Reactions

For centuries, official portraits by contemporary artists have played an important role in documenting the reigns of British monarchs. And today, King Charles revealed the latest addition to this historic collection as he unveiled the first official portrait of himself since his coronation.

The King unveiled a portrait by Jonathan Yeo in Buckingham Palace today. It was commissioned in 2020 to celebrate Charles’s 50 years as a member philanthropic organization the Draper’s Company in 2022. It depicts the King wearing the red tunic of the Welsh Guards, which he was made Regimental Colonel of in 1975.

first official portrait of king charles iii since coronation unveiled
Artist Jonathan Yeo and King Charles stand in front of the portrait of the King by Yeo.WPA Pool - Getty Images

“In the portrait, The King's military regalia subtly fades into the background, exemplifying Jonathan's signature painting style where he places greater emphasis on capturing the character and essence of his subjects rather than replicating their literal appearance,” an explanation of the painting on Yeo’s website reads. “When I started this project, His Majesty The King was still His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and much like the butterfly I've painted hovering over his shoulder, this portrait has evolved as the subject's role in our public life has transformed,” Yeo said in a statement today. "I do my best to capture the life experiences etched into any individual sitter's face. In this case, my aim was also to make reference to the traditions of Royal portraiture but in a way that reflects a 21st Century Monarchy and, above all else, to communicate the subject's deep humanity.”

first official portrait of king charles iii since coronation unveiled
Charles stand in front of Yeo’s portrait.WPA Pool - Getty Images

There were mixed reactions to the portrait online today as it was seen by the public for the first time. A swath of comments underneath the royal family’s official Instagram account reflected the differing views. “I think this is beautiful and such a break from the traditional portraits,” one person wrote. “A lovely portrait of King Charles! I love the way the muted background draws attention to his face!” another posted.

However, many others were not so sure, with the redness of the painting sparking debate. “The face is great but the rest looks like a blood bath,” one person observed. “I’m sorry but his portrait looks like he’s in hell,” another wrote. “Does it reference the colonial bloodshed produced by British imperialism?” one person asked. And another person wrote, “100% thought this was satire.”

Yeo had four sittings with Charles, beginning when he was Prince of Wales, to create the 230 cm by 165 cm oil on canvas work. The last sitting was when Charles was King in 2023 at Clarence House.

The portrait will go on public display for a month at the Philip Mould Gallery in London, from May 16 until June 14. Entry is free; further details are here.

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