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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – An 80th Birthday Portrait

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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – An 80th Birthday Portrait
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – An 80th Birthday Portrait.jpg
ArtistRolf Harris
Year2005 (2005)
TypePainting
MediumOil on canvas
SubjectElizabeth II
ConditionUnknown
OwnerUnknown

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – An 80th Birthday Portrait is a 2005 oil painting of Queen Elizabeth II by Rolf Harris, commissioned by the BBC for the Queen's 80th birthday. It was unveiled at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace and publicly displayed there from 2005 to 2006. A BBC television special about its creation, The Queen, by Rolf, was broadcast on BBC One on 1 January 2006. The painting was voted the second-most-favoured portrait of the Queen by the British public, but critically derided.

Rolf Harris was a popular entertainer on British TV, and was the presenter of Rolf on Art, a BBC series on artists. He took two months to complete the portrait; two sittings were held at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 2005, filmed by the BBC; the rest of the painting was completed at Harris' own art studio. The portrait, measuring 100 by 50 centimetres (39 in × 20 in), is in oil of the Queen wearing a turquoise dress. After he completed the portrait Harris' reputation as an artist, and the value of his works increased, and he was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). The award was annulled following his conviction for indecent assault and sexual offences. The ownership and current location of the portrait is unknown.

Background[edit]

The painting was commissioned by the BBC, and subsequently unveiled at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace and publicly displayed there from 20 December 2005 to 11 June 2006. A BBC television special about its creation, The Queen, by Rolf, was broadcast on BBC One on 1 January 2006.[1]

Harris had been a popular entertainer and artist for several decades in Britain at the time the portrait was commissioned, and was the presenter of Rolf on Art, a series of television programmes on notable artists of the past. Harris subsequently said of the Queen that she was "an incredible lady and it was a real pleasure to paint her. The portrait I've created aims to capture the Queen's warm and friendly personality, rather than being a very formal portrait focusing more on her official status."[1] Harris explained to The Daily Telegraph the following year: "I was as nervous as anything. I was in a panic".[2]

After he completed the portrait his reputation as an artist, and the value of his works increased.[3] He was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2006. Then, in 2013, he was arrested as part of Operation Yewtree, a police investigation into child sexual abuse by media celebrities, and was convicted for indecent assault and imprisoned for five years nine months in June 2014.[4] His art work was largely withdrawn for sale.[5] and the CBE was cancelled and annulled.[6]

Painting[edit]

The portrait in oil of the Queen wearing a turquoise dress, measuring 100 by 50 centimetres (39 in × 20 in), took two months to complete. Two sittings were held at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 2005; Harris subsequently completed the painting at his own art studio. The two sittings were filmed by the BBC.[1] Prior to painting the portrait Harris said that he wanted to "get the real person rather than the state image" and intended that it would be "representational of the way the Queen looks and her obvious charm and friendly quality, rather than the very formal". Harris aimed to create an "impressionistic" as opposed to a "photographic" portrait of the Queen.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

The portrait was voted the second-most-favoured portrait of the Queen by the British public,[2] but has been critically derided, being described by Harry Wallop as depicting the Queen as a "gurning granny".[6][8] Clive Aslet, writing in The Telegraph, described the painting as representing a "nadir" of portraiture of the Queen, feeling it showed her "grinning like the monkey on top of a barrel organ".[9]

Ownership and location[edit]

The location and ownership of the painting are presently unknown.[10][3]

The National Portrait Gallery later refused Harris's offer of the portrait. In 2012 the painting was displayed at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool as part of an exhibition of Harris's work. It was described by the Walker Gallery as having been part of Harris's private collection; the gallery later said that they had returned the portrait to Whitewall Galleries with whom Harris had a commercial relationship.[3]

Following Harris's arrest and 2014 conviction for indecent assault and sexual offences, BBC News Online's magazine discussed the location and ownership of the painting. It revealed that the painting was not part of the Royal Collection, having only been loaned to the Queen's Gallery for display; it was also not part of the BBC's art collection and Whitewall Galleries did not respond to requests for a comment on the portrait's ownership. The public relations company Bell Pottinger, who acted for Harris during his trial, were unable to say if Harris possessed the painting. The article reported that it was "likely to have been returned to Harris".[10][3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Rolf Harris and BBC unveil new official portrait of The Queen". BBC press office. 19 December 2005. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
  2. ^ a b Alec Lom (5 October 2008). "Rolf Harris tells how he nearly lost his nerve during Queen portrait". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Tom Moseley (1 July 2014). "Who, what, why: What happened to Rolf Harris's portrait of the Queen?". BBC News Online. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  4. ^ Walker, Peter (4 July 2014). "Rolf Harris jailed for five years nine months for indecently assaulting girls". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  5. ^ Genevieve Hassan (7 July 2014). "Rolf Harris art: Should owners feel guilty?". BBC.
  6. ^ a b "Rolf Harris stripped of CBE by Queen Elizabeth II following child sex conviction". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  7. ^ "Artist Rolf Harris to Do a Portrait of the Queen". Art Daily. 16 May 2005. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  8. ^ Harry Wallop (2 May 2013). "Why is it so hard to paint a portrait fit for a Queen?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  9. ^ Clive Aslet (21 May 2014). "Our picture of Her Majesty will never fade". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  10. ^ a b Robin De Peyer (2 July 2014). "Where is Rolf Harris' portrait of the Queen? Location of art work a mystery". Evening Standard. Retrieved 11 June 2016.