‘An Irishman’s interpretation of The Queen’
Irish artist Colin Davidson presented a new portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the monarch herself in London last week.
It was unveiled at a Co-Operation Ireland reception in Crosby Hall, the home of Henry VIII’s former chancellor Sir Thomas More, by the Queen, who was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh. The large 4ft by 5ft canvas depicts the queen wearing a turquoise Karl Ludwig dress with a hint of a smile on her face.
The Belfast-born artist, who has painted Liam Neeson, Brad Pitt, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney and others, worked from a 90 minute sitting at Buckingham Palace in May and finished it at his studio in County Down working from 20 drawings.
“The drawings tend for me to be really important because they capture what I felt. The camera just simply takes a frozen frame. The drawings are used for the likeness and the spirit of the time that we spent together,” he said of the finished painting.
He said he had been very aware of “the gravity and the responsibility” of painting the sovereign. He said that he felt his portrait was a “symbol” of the Queen’s role in advancing a closer relationship between Britain and Ireland.
“This isn’t just my interpretation of the Queen, this is an Irishman’s interpretation of the Queen. “I have witnessed over many years the Queen’s actions in advancing healing within the Anglo- Irish relationship.
“That does inform the weight of the painting and it informs my attitude to it as well.”
“Here’s someone who is perhaps the most famous face in the world and has been so for 63 years. “I’m bringing everything that I know about painting to it. With anybody I paint, it’s a human being in their own right, but with this particular painting I was aware of the gravity and sheer importance and weight which comes with the person I was painting.”
In 2012 the Queen visited Northern Ireland, a year after her historic State Visit to Ireland. During that trip, on a visit to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, Her Majesty shook hands with Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness for the first time. Several of Mr Davidson’s portraits are on display in the Lyric Theatre and were shown to the Queen by Mr McGuinness.
“That was a Co-operation Ireland event. In the years since then (painting the Queen) has just quietly and slowly worked its way to becoming a reality,” he said of the Cooperation Ireland commission before last week’s event.
Last week after the unveiling he said: “I jested with her she was still talking to me which was good, and she absolutely agreed she still was talking to me – so I took quite a bit of heart from that.
“She commented on the scale and most sitters comment on the scale, she had no idea I was going to make her so big. I told her that’s the size I usually paint and I couldn’t possibly paint her any smaller.
“I feel relief and a great deal of privilege I have to say as well. I realise the gravity of the event, I realise the symbolism of the event as well from an Anglo- Irish point of view, more than anything else.
“I hope my painting in some way acknowledges the actions she has taken to advance healing in the Anglo-Irish relationship.”