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Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 22:45 GMT 23:45 UK
Election artist named
Tony Banks
Mr Banks thinks elections should be recorded on canvas
The UK's first ever official election artist has been named as portrait artist Jonathan Yeo - son of shadow agriculture minister Tim.

Chosen by a committee of MPs, Mr Yeo will be expected to leave his father's political allegiance behind when he follows the three main party leaders on the campaign trail.

I am aware of the difficulties involved

Jonathan Yeo
The artist is perhaps best known for painting fashion designer Ozwald Boateng - reputedly his fee for that job was a wardrobe of new suits.

The idea for an election artist was dreamt up by former sports minister Tony Banks, and Mr Yeo was always a frontrunner.

As chairman of the House of Commons Works of Art Committee, Mr Banks announced their final choice on Tuesday night.

He told BBC News Online they wanted someone with the ability to capture his subjects on the move.

"He is also a very fine photographer," Mr Banks said.

It just occurred to me that we have war artists, so why not have an election artist?

Tony Banks
"This (recording an election on canvass) is something that hasn't been done recently.

"It just occurred to me that we have war artists, so why not have an election artist?"

Mr Banks insisted that painting politicians would not inevitably lead to dull art.

"If the artist is cruel, if he sees into the soul and he produces something the subjects don't like, well that's his prerogative.

"That's the prerogative of the artist and you're not telling him to produce us subject material for chocolate boxes."

'Unprecedented opportunity'

The Labour MP said Mr Yeo was facing a "hugely challenging task" - but the 30-year-old artist suggested he felt ready for the challenge.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity. However, I am aware of the difficulties involved," he said.

Mr Yeo, who until recently had a studio above Marco Pierre White's Quo Vadis restaurant in London's Dean Street, has drawn his subjects from politics, media and sport.

Katy Letman, commissions consultant for the Royal Society of Portrait Members, described him as "a fantastic painter who produces very good likenesses but also captures the essential character of his subjects".

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Banks attacks 'cruel' slaughter policy
12 Mar 01 | UK Politics
MP warns Lords over hunting
01 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Ex-minister Tony Banks mugged
10 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Yeo widens drugs debate
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