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Queen unveils new portrait by NI artist Colin Davidson

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

image copyrightPA
image captionThe Queen unveiled the portrait at a Co-Operation Ireland reception in London on Tuesday evening

A new portrait of the Queen by the Northern Irish artist Colin Davidson has been unveiled in London by the monarch.

It was unveiled on Tuesday at a Co-Operation Ireland reception, attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Speaking prior to the unveiling, Mr Davidson told the BBC he was very aware of "the gravity and the responsibility" involved in painting the monarch.

The portrait was produced from a sitting at Buckingham Palace in May.

'Most famous'

Mr Davidson has painted many significant public figures including politicians, artists, actors and musicians.

However, he said that painting the Queen was unique.

"Here's someone who is perhaps the most famous face in the world and has been so for 63 years," he said.

image captionColin Davidson said his painting was "an Irishman's interpretation of the Queen"
image captionColin Davidson painted the Queen in Buckingham Palace and completed the portrait at his studio in County Down

"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."

The origins of the commission were from the Queen's visit to Northern Ireland in 2012.

During a visit to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, Her Majesty shook hands with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness for the first time.

image copyrightPA
image captionThe Queen and Martin McGuinness first shook hands in 2012

A number of Mr Davidson's portraits are on display in the theatre, and he was able to show some of them to the monarch.

"That was at a Co-operation Ireland event," the artist said.

"In the years since then it has just quietly and slowly worked its way to becoming a reality."

Prior to the sitting, the artist visited Buckingham Palace to choose a room to paint in.

"I chose a room where the light was particularly good: the yellow drawing room at the front, which characteristically has been used for most of the royal portraits," he recalled.

image captionThe artist used photographs and sketches of the Queen to produce the final artwork

During the subsequent sitting, Mr Davidson said he made about 20 drawings of the Queen, as well as taking a number of photographs.

"The drawings tend for me to be really important because they capture what I felt," he said.

"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."

'Irishman's interpretation'

Following the sitting, Mr Davidson completed the painting at his studio in County Down.

He said that he felt his portrait was a "symbol" of the Queen's role in advancing a closer relationship between Britain and Ireland.

image captionColin Davidson said the Queen had played a role in healing the Anglo-Irish relationship

"This isn't just my interpretation of the Queen, this is an Irishman's interpretation of the Queen," he said.

"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."


Had he any trepidation about the reaction to such a high-profile portrait?

"I sometimes wonder why I choose to be in the same room as the person whenever any of the portraits are unveiled," he laughs.

"It's a scary time.

"But, in some ways, whenever the painting is out of the studio it's out of my hands."

The Queen is a joint patron of Co-operation Ireland.

Tuesday's unveiling was also attended by Northern Ireland First and Deputy First Ministers, Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness.

image copyrightPA
image captionStormont's leaders attended the event alongside the Northern Ireland secretary of state and the Irish justice minister

Related Topics

  • Queen Elizabeth II
  • Art
  • Portrait painting

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