Saturday, January 9, 2010

Official Portrait of Princes William and Harry

San Francisco Chronicle reported that a new official portrait of Princes William and Harry of UK by artist Nicky Philipps was on display at the National Portrait Gallery alongside other royal portraits.

The painting was well-executed - I like its somber tone and the poses between casual and formal and the apparent brotherly connection between the sitters. It recalled me Whistler's Mother. The simplistic frontal lighting did not generate drama, instead it instilled a certain serenity. Perhaps precisely because of these, the painting seems a little dated and lacks a certain edge and energy. Was the artist being ironic? However, the painting does draw viewers in and invites people to ponder. In that sense, it is a success. The golden frame however clashes with the blue sash violently and should be replaced as soon as possible.

An official portrait is always difficult to inject artistic statement, but a successful artist must find inspirations from this constraint. One of my favorite official portrait is "Charles IV and His Family" by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (see below). The Princes William and Harry is a very good official portrait; I just wish the artist and the sitters would be bolder and have made more excellent decisions.

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