New portrait of Queen to go on first class stamps

Artist Nicky Philipps admits to 'high pressure' job after accepting commission from Royal Mail to paint Queen Elizabeth II

Nicky Philipps concedes that negative comments are part of the deal when you paint the most painted woman in the world. "You can't please everyone and there's a bit of 'it's appalling', 'it's dreadful' already – but I would like to invite those people to come and look at it in the flesh."

Philipps was speaking in front of an enormous and striking portrait of the Queen unveiled on Thursday and commissioned by the Royal Mail. It will feature on a first class stamp to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation.

Or a small part of it will. While the Queen's head is on the stamp, Philipps' portrait is full length, showing her wearing Order of the Garter robes at Buckingham Palace with two corgis and two dorgis snapping at her feet.

"It's wonderful to be on the stamp and it's an honour but it's also disappointing when you know it's a huge picture to have just one little bit highlighted," said Philipps.

The artist, whose portrait of princes William and Harry hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, had three hour-long sittings with the Queen in the Chinese drawing room at Buckingham Palace.

"She was very calm… and knows exactly what she's supposed to do – she's very good at manoeuvring herself back into position."

Painting the Queen had long been an ambition, Philipps said. "It was a very high-pressure job but it was good fun. It is a big deal and you feel pressure to get it right. I don't want to be unkind, I don't want to over-flatter, I just want to get it right."

More than 130 artists have painted the monarch and it can be a thankless task. Earlier this month Dan Llywelyn Hall had his portrait unveiled at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff; it attracted a deluge of criticism to the point that the artist admitted being shocked at the viciousness of tweets and other messages.

A similar backlash is not expected against Philipps' portrait, but she said she would still love people to come and see it before casting their verdict. For now that is only possible by visiting the Fine Art Commissions gallery in central London where it will hang in a show of Philipps' work from 5-28 June.

The painting is being gifted to the royal collection, so where it hangs after that remains to be seen.


Mark Brown, arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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