Australian artist Ralph Heimans has shared details of the “extraordinary” hour it took him to sit down with the Queen to paint her portrait.
Heimans was chosen to paint the only official portrait of the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee, an experience he described as very “intense”.
“It was an ambitious project to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee and I consider myself very lucky to have been able to prepare this large-scale portrait,” Heimans told Today.
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Measuring 2.5 x 3.5 metres, it is the largest official portrait of the Queen and took six months to paint.
It now hangs permanently in Westminster Abbey after being unveiled to a local audience at the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
Heimans said because it was going to be the official Diamond Jubilee portrait, it had to say something about the act of coronation, something that is again relevant with King Charles III now the new ruler of the British monarchy.
“It has strong resonance because it’s about the transition of the crown from one monarch to the next,” Heimans said.
“It’s about that moment, the burden of office, the oath she took on the day of her coronation, which has stayed with her and defined her.”
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Heimans shared details about the time he had to spend with the Queen to prepare the project.
“Of course I was terribly nervous and the Queen was wearing the state rope as depicted in the painting, and a beautiful state dress,” he said.
“It was theatrical, impressive and terrifying for a young artist to be given this opportunity, but it was incredible.
“As she approached the long corridor of Buckingham Palace and she finally got to me, I was struck by her and being in her physical presence was something you can’t prepare for.”
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He said Her Majesty realized the importance of the portrait and she was involved in every stage of the preparation.
“It was a major milestone, so she was involved in every decision in terms of what she would wear, so her participation in everything I think she did was really very involved,” he said.
Heimans said the Queen had just returned from a trip to Australia and she was excited about the portrait being displayed Down Under.
“That was the positivity of the Australian trip, it was literally just a few weeks after she came back and she was very happy that this painting would be in Australia, unveiled there,” he said.
Watch the full interview with Ralph Heimans above
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