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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 January 2008, 00:47 GMT
Blair in first official portrait
Portrait of Tony Blair by Jonathan Yeo
Tony Blair sat for two hours for the portrait
The first official portrait of Tony Blair has been unveiled.

The oil painting by artist Jonathan Yeo shows the former prime minister wearing a commemorative poppy, to represent his leadership role during the Iraq war.

Yeo said Mr Blair, 54, "came bouncing in" for sittings and described his subject as having "Tigger-like energy".

Mr Blair, who refused previous official portrait requests, agreed to the painting before leaving office. It will be displayed at London's Lincoln's Inn.

Of all the things that people remember him for, the war in Iraq is going to be one of the main things that people discuss
Artist Jonathan Yeo

Yeo, son of the Conservative MP and former minister Timothy Yeo, said the poppy featured in the painting was symbolic, but was not meant to be judgemental.

"Of all the things that people remember him for, the war in Iraq is going to be one of the main things that people discuss," he said.

"I was thinking that I had to find some kind of representation of that, but that it shouldn't be trite or too judgemental.

"It was November and of course when he came in he was wearing a poppy. I thought that was perfect."

'Ravages of power'

Yeo, who has painted portraits of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and the Duke of Edinburgh, claimed he understood the reason for Mr Blair's upbeat mood during his sittings.

"It was a few weeks into Gordon Brown coming off the rails," he said.

"I can't help but think that his hugely positive good humour and Tigger-like energy might have had something to do with his successor having trouble in the job."

He said he had expected Mr Blair to look like he had a year previously when he "was appearing pale, drawn and old".

"That would have made my job easier in a way. It would be a wonderful explanation of the ravages of power.

"But he came bouncing in, looked incredibly healthy, and had colour in his cheeks."

Meaning

Yeo previously painted a triptych of Mr Blair with the then Conservative leader William Hague and Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy during the 2001 election, but it was not regarded as an official portrait.

Yeo added that it was down to those looking at the portrait to make their own conclusions about its meaning.

"Some people see the portrait and say 'oh you've made him look incredibly thoughtful, remorseful, and respectful', and others say 'you've put him in the dock as a warmonger'. It depends on what you think of him really."

The 75cm by 75cm portrait was commissioned by the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn - one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong. It will be on display from March.

Previous portraits of prime ministers at Lincoln's Inn include William Pitt, Spencer Perceval, Herbert Asquith and Margaret Thatcher.

SEE ALSO
Politicians' paintings unveiled
31 Oct 01 |  Politics

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