Oil Painting of Sir David Attenborough Is Revealed in Celebration of His 40 Years of Work


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Few voices are as familiar and far-reaching as that of Sir David Attenborough. The 98-year-old British broadcaster and natural historian has been a fixture on the BBC and other programs for generations, showing the beauties of the world to audiences throughout the decades. In recent years, he has increasingly focused on expressing the perils of manmade climate change and destruction, hoping to inspire each person that his voice reaches to care about the planet. To celebrate his 40th anniversary as a Fellow of the Royal Society and the amazing work he’s done, a new portrait of Attenborough has been revealed, painted by Jonathan Yeo, who recently painted King Charles' official portrait.

Attenborough was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983 in recognition of his accomplishments in the field of scientific broadcasting. As such, he joined the likes of Alan Turing, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein. Now, 40 years in, he’s sat for British portraitist Jonathan Yeo. As an artist known for painting the world's famous names, one of his most recent sitters was King Charles III. The painting—which featured the king emerging from a red mist of paint—was met with conflicted popular opinions and much internet discussion. But Yeo's skill as a painter is undeniable, and he has now rendered Attenborough in a gentler color—green.

The green aptly evokes a sense of nature, something Attenborough has been educating the public about for decades. Yeo told the BBC he chose the green hue for an “ambiguous natural green background,” creating an illusion the naturalist “might be emerging from one of the many habitats he has captured on film during his career.”

The experience of the portrait seems to have touched the artist and subject. Yeo expressed how honored he felt to paint the living legend. “It has been a thrill as well as a privilege to spend so much time with someone whose wisdom is so deep and broad, and who is also such brilliant and entertaining company,” he says. Meanwhile, at the unveiling, Attenborough opined, “To spend so much of my life looking at the natural world and attempting to convey to others its amazing complexity, beauty, and increasingly, its fragility, has been a great privilege.”

The portrait is now on view to the public at the Royal Society in London. The painting will join the Royal Society's collections, immortalizing Attenborough's place among exceptional compatriots. Keith Moore of the Royal Society's archives summed it up to the BBC: “I’d defy you to find anyone who has touched as many people’s lives in explaining the ideas behind great science, and how they affect our world, as Attenborough. He’s one of a kind.”

Jonathan Yeo, the British painter who recently immortalized King Charles III, painted Sir David Attenborough in a green that evokes the broadcaster and biologist's lifelong achievement.

Sir David Attenborough: Instagram
Jonathan Yeo: Website | Instagram
h/t: [BBC]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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