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The Queen: Australian artist Ralph Heimans recalls painting the Diamond Jubilee portrait

‘Remarkable’ six-word request an Australian painter had to ask the Queen before capturing Her Majesty in an iconic portrait

  • Artists Ralph Heimans was asked to paint the official portrait of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012
  • He said he wanted to show her in a rare introspective moment, a side not generally shown to the public.
  • The painting is located on the Cosmati Pavement in Westminster Abbey, the historic site of the coronation
  • When he started the portrait, while he was in Buckingham Palace, the staff told him to use a very clear expression
  • Full coverage: Click here to see all our coverage of the Queen’s death

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The Australian-born artist who painted the acclaimed Diamond Jubilee portrait of the Queen recalled being instructed to ask Her Majesty, ‘Can I take control now, ma’am?’

Ralph Heimans, from Sydney who now lives in South London with his wife and daughters, explained that he was allowed to spend an hour with the Queen at Buckingham Palace after being asked to paint her portrait in 2012.

Mr. Heimans explains that the palace staff told him to use the “remarkable” phrase “the moment you start the meeting.”

“I couldn’t believe I had to say that and at the time I couldn’t bring myself to say those words. It’s like saying, “Can I take control of the country?” he told The Project on a segment that aired Tuesday.

The Queen's official Diamond Jubilee portrait entitled The Coronation Theater (pictured) is located on the Cosmati Pavement in Westminster Abbey, the historic site of coronation

The Queen’s official Diamond Jubilee portrait entitled The Coronation Theater (pictured) is located on the Cosmati Pavement in Westminster Abbey, the historic site of coronation

Artist Ralph Heimans (pictured) said he thinks the painting 'has more resonance now that it did at this point'

Artist Ralph Heimans (pictured) said he thinks the painting 'has more resonance now that it did at this point'

Artist Ralph Heimans (pictured) said he thinks the painting ‘has more resonance now that it did at this point’

He added that he was told the Queen would stand for some, but not all, of the sessions held in the palace’s yellow drawing room, and that there was an “important discussion” about what the queen would wear with palace staff, but that she was “running.” the show’.

He said the Queen chose the state mantle to wear, which weighed so heavily that it took four people to wear it.

“I wanted to paint the Queen in an introspective mood, but it’s a little hard to explain that you want her to look a little gloomy.”

“I noticed that there was some resistance from the palace staff that day, and the Queen’s dresser was determined that she should look up and look very merry.”

The painting entitled ‘The Coronation Theatre’ is the largest official portrait of Her Majesty

“It’s twice the size of anything I’d tackled before, but the scale is relevant to the impact of the work…I wanted the viewer to feel as if they were in the presence of the Queen, to feel to get them right in front of her.’

“She has this extraordinary look.”

“It’s a little hard to see behind the mask, but what impressed me was the sense of humility she had and that really influenced the painting.”

Given a time frame of six months from the meeting to the unveiling, he said he worked 20 hours a day.

“If you take an X-ray of my painting, you will see that there are many different ideas that I have tried and painted over… it was a real struggle with the canvas.”

Heimans said the Queen does not comment on portraits, but he has since been commissioned to paint Prince Philip and Prince Charles, now King Charles III, which he took as positive feedback.

Heimans said the Queen does not comment on portraits, but he has since been commissioned to paint Prince Philip and Prince Charles, now King Charles III, which he took as positive feedback.

Heimans said the Queen does not comment on portraits, but he has since been commissioned to paint Prince Philip and Prince Charles, now King Charles III, which he took as positive feedback.

The setting for the painting is the historic coronation site at Westminster Abbey, where the portrait now resides, with Mr Heimans being given two nights alone in the famous church.

“It’s where she was crowned on this central circle on the Cosmati Pavement, this incredible mosaic on the high altar where the throne is placed,” he said.

The crown is aligned with this central circle on the ground to give the monarch divine power. It’s the epicenter of the British monarchy.’

He added that it was an “imagined moment” combining the meeting and the abbey, because “you never see the Queen alone in public.”

Three weeks after the portrait was unveiled, it was vandalized by someone who snuck an abbey can into his coat and wrote the word “help” before being tackled “dramatically” to the ground.

‘The p ran off the edge of the canvas’.

Restorers worked for five weeks by wiping the paint with cotton swabs to remove the stains with Mr. Heimans, then touching up the paint to return the portrait to its original state.

Mr Heimans said that while the Queen does not comment on portraits, he was commissioned to paint Prince Philip in 2017 and Prince Charles, now King Charles III, in 2018, so he took that as positive feedback.

“I thought Charles was an incredible person, very thoughtful. I think he will actually be a great king.”