2000 ‘Royal Family’ by John Wonnacott

'Royal Family' for the National Portrait Gallery 2000 by John Wonnacott

‘Royal Family’ for the National Portrait Gallery 2000 by John Wonnacott

The two drawings were made as preparatory studies for my 11ft+ Family Painting commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday. This project occupied me full time for about a year, working almost every day in the Palace making room studies in the same space that Lavery had used for his 1913 painting of George V and his family. Each of my royal sitters posed separately, for around 7 hours each. I drew the Queen Mother in Clarence house, the Queen and the Duke in the Yellow Drawing room, used regularly as an artist’s studio. The Prince of Wales posed at Highgrove and the young Princes in their housemaster’s study at Eton. For the last 15 minutes of each painting session I would make rapid action drawings of my Royal sitters in the positions I was establishing for them in my large painting.

After the painting was installed at the NPG in the year 2000, I took all the painting studies to my own home in Southend to hang in a dedicated corridor. They stayed there for five years until it was decided that I should show them all together in their own room at Agnew’s where I was preparing to hang a major one-man show. The Royal Studies were not intended for sale but as a means of interesting the public in the way that such a complex painting could be planned and constructed. As it turned out, the paintings were bought as a complete set by a friend of the Royal Family and now hang at Highgrove.

A year after the show was finished, I missed my corridor of Royal paintings and began a set of tiny heads from memory and my own original drawing studies. Of these, only this head of the Queen and another of Prince William have survived.

John Wonnacott Hon RP

A painting and drawings based on The Royal Family by John Wonnacott



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