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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 17:49 GMT
Freud royal portrait divides critics
The Queen
The Queen as she is usually seen
Lucian Freud's portrait of the Queen has divided both the press and art critics.

Freud - who is often described as Britain's greatest living painter - has depicted the Queen with his characteristic naturalism.

They should hang it in the kharzi

Sun photograher Arthur Edwards
In the portrait, she wears a severe expression, and her features are rendered heavily.

The painting has been described as "thought-provoking and psychologically penetrating" by the head of the National Portrait Gallery, Charles Saumarez-Smith.

The Royal Collection  Lucian Freud
The Royal Collection Lucian Freud

However, the Daily Telegraph says it is "extremely unflattering".

'Prop forward'

The newspaper concedes that the Queen "is no longer the heart-breakingly beautiful young woman she was", but maintains she is still "easy on the eye".

Yet the Telegraph adds Freud has captured the Queen's strong sense of duty and Hanoverian roots, and concludes that the work is "thought provoking" and "every bit as good" as previous efforts.

The chief art critic of The Times, Richard Cork, describes the image as "painful, brave, honest, stoical and, above all, clear sighted".

But in the same paper, Richard Morrison says: "The chin has what can only be described as a six-o'clock shadow, and the neck would not disgrace a rugby prop forward.

A self-portrait by Freud
Freud pulls no punches when painting himself

"The expression is of a sovereign who has endured not one annus horribilis but an entire reign of them. The Merry Monarch it isn't."

The Sun calls the portrait "a travesty".

The paper's royal photographer, Arthur Edwards, says: "They should hang it in the kharzi.

"Freud should be locked in the Tower for this."

Robert Simon, editor of the British Art Journal, tells the newspaper: "It makes her look like one of the royal corgis who has suffered a stroke."


The Independent, however, says Freud's portrait is being hailed as the most honest representation of the monarch to date.

Under the headline "You're no oil painting, Ma'am", the Mirror says Freud could have saved the Queen the trouble of sitting for him by copying her Spitting Image puppet.

But the paper adds that the picture is "unmistakably his own", and says the Queen "should have known what to expect".

Meanwhile, Adrian Searle, the Guardian's art critic, hails Freud's picture as the best royal portrait for 150 years, and says: "Portraiture is meant to get beneath the skin.

"Freud has got beneath the powder, and that itself is no mean feat.

"Both sitter and painter have seen too much, are easily, stoically bored. They know the shape they're in.

"This is a painting of experience".

It is painful, brave, honest and stoical

The Times critic Richard Cork
The portrait was painted in the Royal Collection's Friary Court picture conservation studio at St James's Palace.

The sittings took place between May 2000 and December 2001.

Freud requested to paint the Queen in the famous Diamond Diadem that she wears when travelling to the State Opening of Parliament, and is depicted wearing on postage stamps and bank notes.

The BBC's Ben McCarthy
"It might not be the most popular portrait of the Queen"
The BBC's Stephanie Callister speaks to
Richard Cork, chief art critic of The Times, and David Lee, editor of the art journal Jackdaw
See also:

22 Dec 01 | Arts
Royal portrait: Your views
06 Sep 01 | Arts
Pop goes the Portrait Gallery
31 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Politicians' paintings unveiled
06 Sep 01 | Arts
UK's art king retires
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