First Official Portrait of King Charles Since Coronation Unveiled To Mixed Reviews

King Charles recently unveiled the first official portrait of himself since his coronation. Created by British artist Jonathan Yeo, the larger-than-life artwork measures about 8.5 by 6.5 feet. But after its presentation, this unorthodox take on royal portraiture quickly caused a stir, sparking mixed reviews from art critics and dividing members of the public.

In the painting, the monarch seems to stare head-on as he poses against a backdrop of bright red brushstrokes. His face is the only part of the painting that is not clouded by the crimson hues. Though Yeo is no stranger to the public eye—he is considered one of the most sought-after artists of the genre with a long list of A-list sitters he has worked with include Sir David Attenborough, Malala Yousafzai, and Nicole Kidman—none of the painter’s previous pieces have caused controversy the way his King Charles portrait has. The red hues, in particular, seem to have caught the most attention, be it positive or negative.

After jointly revealing the image on Instagram, commenters shared what the colors looked like to them. “It looks like he’s bathing in blood,” wrote one user. Another added, “I’m sorry but his portrait looks like he’s in hell.” CNN royal historian Kate Williams quoted someone who compared it to a poster for a horror film. Vanessa Friedman, chief fashion critic of The New York Times, writes, “It turns out that red is a trigger color for almost everyone—especially given the somewhat meta endeavor that is royal portraiture: a representation of a representation, made for posterity.”

Hoping to offer some insight into his choice of color, Yeo added an explainer on his site: “The vivid color of the glazes in the background echo the uniform’s bright red tunic, not only resonating with the royal heritage found in many historical portraits but also injecting a dynamic, contemporary jolt into the genre with its uniformly powerful hue / providing a modern contrast to more traditional depictions.”

Yeo began the portrait in June 2021, when Charles was still Prince of Wales. The painting depicts the monarch wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, sword in hand, and a butterfly landing on his shoulder—a nod both to the king’s commitment to environmental causes and the symbolism of the rebirth of a recently ascended monarch. “Much like the butterfly I’ve painted hovering over his shoulder, this portrait has evolved as the subject’s role in our public life has transformed,” said Yeo in a statement released by Buckingham Palace.

However, the butterfly metaphor—which Yeo said was suggested by Charles himself—was also received tepidly. “There’s no insight into the king’s personality here, just a weird allegory about a monarch butterfly that Yeo says is a symbol of his metamorphosis from prince to king,” writes The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones, who gave the portrait one star out of five.

Ultimately, King Charles and his wife Camilla seem to be happy with the portrait. BBC reports that the queen looked at the painting and told Yeo, “Yes, you’ve got him,” while the king smiled approvingly after looking at it half-finished—although he too, was mildly surprised by the vibrant color.

The portrait is currently on public display at the Philip Mould Gallery in London until June 14, 2024.

The first portrait of King Charles since his coronation, painted by artist Jonathan Yeo, was unveiled.

After the big reveal, the painting immediately received mixed reactions online.

While some people loved it and the interesting choices the artist made…

…others have been more critical and sarcastic of the depiction, particularly of the use of red brushstrokes.

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Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Staff Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
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