Another portrait of the Queen

A portrait of the Queen by Australian artist Ralph Heimans has gone on show at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. It shows the monarch at night in Westminster Abbey standing on the spot where she was crowned 60 years ago. She looks like a giant genie has suddenly appeared from the train of a dress and she has succumbed to suspended animation. One gathers she is meant to appear pensive, as though wondering why she didn’t buy Frankel when she had the chance – she might even be pondering the fate of the Liverpool Empire. A typically Australian effort; massive (it is eleven feet by nine feet), ambitious, unsubtle and a little heavy, don’t you think, on the melodrama and narrative?

Many confuse a photographic appearance with a picture being well painted. This is an easy but fundamental mistake. Here, every detail is painted, the only omissions being real life not theatre and vigour in the execution. In close up the sitter wears the leathery look of a souvenir sailor.

David Lee

The Jackdaw October 2012