1996 H M The Queen by Antony Williams

This painting is unusual in that rather than being commissioned by family or an institution, Antony carried out the commission as part of the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture, which he won in 1995.

H M The Queen by Antony Williams RP. Winner of the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture, Royal Society of Portrait Painters 1995

I had six sittings with the Queen, of up to 90 minutes each, but the painting took about three months to complete. I did a lot of work in the studio from sketches and photographs that I had made. I recorded everything, from the background to her hands. My depiction of the Queen’s hands has come in for the most criticism, but this over-emphasis on her hands is irritating. It is a minor detail and the critics are losing sight of the whole work. How can you make a real judgement just from the hands?

Lord St John of Fawsley says they are not the Queen’s hands, but they are. They were like that! There is some exaggeration, because you’re not painting a photograph. A painting is transformed actuality. They are paintings of hands – not real hands – a mixture of my own impressions, my mental notes, my sketches, how the light was falling, a distillation of several visits.

My portrait is an honest painting of the Queen, but it is not honest to the visual accuracy only: it is more than that. It is honest to the process of painting. Although there should be a likeness to what you are representing in a portrait, you must also be be truthful to what the person is. It is not a conscious interpretation, and despite what the critics say, I am not trying to make a statement about monarchy.

Antony Williams


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