Artist Jonathan Yeo Clarifies The Reasoning Behind Incorporating Red Into King Charles’ Controversial Portrait

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Artist Jonathan Yeo Clarifies The Reasoning Behind Incorporating Red Into King Charles' Controversial Portrait

Jonathan Yeo, the artist responsible for King Charles’ bold new portrait, has elaborated on his choice to feature red prominently in his latest work.

Attending the unveiling ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, Yeo disclosed that he received minimal direction, being informed only about the size of the portrait and the King’s attire in military uniform.

“The only guidance [The Draper’s Company, who commissioned the portrait] they gave me was the specific scale because they had other portraits of that size. And there was a preference for it to be in uniform, probably Welsh Guards,” said Jonathan. “Other than that, there was no direction, which is exciting but a little bit daunting. A blank canvas.”

The British artist explained: “The red was inspired by the Welsh Guards, but I wanted the painting to be a little more contemporary and not get in the way of seeing the face and the personality. 

“The colour was an early experiment and then I sketched it out and worked on the face, and the face and background worked so well. I just then worked on making sure nothing else interfered with the balance. It was a nice mix of the traditional and the contemporary.”

The portrait predominantly features the red hue of the Welsh Guards regiment, with the artist also incorporating a butterfly hovering over the King’s shoulder, a detail suggested by Charles himself.

This addition symbolizes not only the monarch’s affinity for nature but also his transition from the Prince of Wales to King Charles.

Yeo conducted four sittings with the King, commencing when Charles held the title of Prince of Wales in June 2021 at Highgrove, and concluding with the final session at Clarence House in November 2023.

“When he became king halfway through the process, it worked on that level as well,” said Jonathan. “It’s a lovely simple device but one with many associations.”

On working with the King, he added: “He was a delightful subject, when you are doing someone as significant as that there’s a lot of organisation required to get you in the same place. 

“But when you are there, he couldn’t be more delightful. Very easy company. He laughs and asks lots of questions and he is interested in art so there is always a lot to talk to about.”

Charles looked seemingly pleased by the final product when he unveiled the painting in the palace’s Blue Drawing Room this week, in front of Jonathan and his wife Queen Camilla. “It is remarkable, actually, how it has turned out,” he said.

Joking about the butterfly reference, he added: “It was nice to know I was a chrysalis when you first met me. Well, thank you and congratulations. Fantastic.”

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