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Art attack: 'Terrifying' new portrait of King Charles divides internet

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2024, 3:49pm
The portrait of King Charles III by artist Jonathan Yeo was unveiled at Buckingham Palace on May 14, 2024 in London, England. Photo / Getty Images
The portrait of King Charles III by artist Jonathan Yeo was unveiled at Buckingham Palace on May 14, 2024 in London, England. Photo / Getty Images

Art attack: 'Terrifying' new portrait of King Charles divides internet

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2024, 3:49pm

The world has been graced with a new portrait of King Charles, but some people really don’t like this painting. It’s created a deluge of differing opinions online. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s happened?

The painting was unveiled at Buckingham Palace in front of the King and Queen. The artist Jonathan Yeo and his family were also there to celebrate the occasion..

The work by Yeo took three years to paint, and was completed over four sittings at Highgrove and Clarence House - not bad for a royal subject with a busy schedule.

It aims to capture His Majesty’s “life experiences” and how his “role in our public life has transformed”. Charles is depicted in military regalia - the uniform of the Welsh Guards - abstracted by a background and foreground of painterly brushstrokes in varying shades of vibrant red. A butterfly (the King’s suggestion) prepares to land on his shoulder.

It’s Charles’ first official portrait since the coronation, but that’s not what’s got people talking.

Since pictures of it were released, social media has erupted with responses to the work, and news media around the world has been reporting on the backlash.

How have people reacted?

The comment section of the royal family’s Instagram account is littered with reactions to the “terrifying” painting.

“It looks like he’s in hell,” suggested one follower. Another user declared it the “worst official portrait I have ever seen”.

There’s a slew of memes and visual gags. Someone declared it Karma (Diana’s Version) - others placed it next to a carbonite-frozen Han Solo in Star Wars.

It’s even been compared to the famous “everything is fine” meme of a cartoon dog in a burning room - a timely reference given the state of the world right now.

Not everyone hated it. Some have called it “beautiful” and “a break from the traditional portraits”.

Yeo himself called it “a privilege and pleasure to have been commissioned by The Drapers’ Company to paint this portrait of His Majesty the King”.

Is the portrait that bad?

In the scheme of portraits of and by public figures, it’s really not that bad.

A striking work, the torturous scarlet brushstrokes could even be read as rather apt during a time when the royal family has been facing crisis after crisis.

Stoking reactions and discussion is what the royal family does; they’re a public entity and vehicle for entertainment.

And in an era of mass user-generated content, images of them are a cultural object and form part of a wider conversation and mood.

The painting seems eerie and unsettling, but perhaps that’s the point.

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