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Artist reveals why his portrait of the King is so red

The artist who painted the King’s latest portrait has revealed why the artwork is so red.

The painting by Jonathan Yeo, which was unveiled by the monarch at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, depicts the King wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards against a red backdrop.

The unusual portrait has divided opinion amongst royal fans and social media users, with some saying the large swathes of red made them “uncomfortable” and that it looked like the monarch was “in hell”.

Yeo said he “got over” the mixed reactions early on and was amused by the internet memes the portrait generated.

(His Majesty King Charles III by)

“My [younger] daughter was much too keen to show me all the crazy stuff about the painting on TikTok,” he told The Sunday Times. “She’s 17 and … had the best day of her life with all of the conspiracies about the painting, saying I’m a satanist and Illuminati.”

He added: “No matter what you do with a picture, no matter how obvious you think the story you’re telling is, someone’s going to read something else into it.”.

As for why he chose to use so much red in the portrait, the 53-year-old said he wanted it to tone and distract from the King’s brightly coloured uniform.

“I thought the red will really distract,” he told the paper, adding that his solution was to instead cover the whole painting in crimson.

“That may also have had psychological backing, because I had a heart attack [in March 2023] when I was painting this,” he says. “But certainly none of that I was conscious of — it was just: I like this colour.”

He revealed that he struggled painting the King’s medals and uniform as he had never done so before.

“I probably spent longer on the medals than the face because I knew what I wanted to do with the face when I started,” he said.

“The more I painted the medals in, the more that was the first thing you saw because they were so shiny. I didn’t want it to be about that, but they had to be there somewhere. I would put them in — and then it would be too much — and I would rub them away. It was push and pull.”

The new painting measures 8ft 6in by 6ft 6in and was commissioned in 2020 to celebrate the then-Prince of Wales’s 50 years as a member of The Drapers’ Company.

Yeo had four sittings with the King, beginning when Charles was Prince of Wales in June 2021 at Highgrove, and later at Clarence House. The last sitting took place in November 2023 at Clarence House.

The portrait will go on public display for a month at the Philip Mould Gallery in London, from May 16 until June 14. Entry is free.

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