John Wonnacott, RP CBE (b. 1940)

Wonnacott trained at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1958–63. He then moved to Southend-on-Sea, Essex, where he still lives. His solo exhibitions include shows at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh (1986) and the National Portrait Gallery in London (2000). He has also had artworks exhibited at the Barbican Centre, the Royal Academy, and the Tate Gallery, all in London.

In 1997, Wonnacott painted the British prime minister John Major. In 2000, he painted the British Royal Family in a 12-foot tall artwork.

John Wonnacott, RP CBE (b. 1940), Portrait of HRH Prince Henry of Wales, PRINCE HARRY, 2000

John Wonnacott, RP CBE (b. 1940), Portrait of HRH Prince Henry of Wales, PRINCE HARRY


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Oil canvas
12 x 12 in (30.5 x 30.5 cm)

The inspiration for the picture arose from sittings held for the centenary portrait of The Royal Family, commissioned by The National Portrait Gallery in 2000 to celebrate the 100th birthday of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

The finished portrait is over 11 feet high and shows the six most senior members of The Royal Family in The White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother is at the centre of the composition looking towards Prince Harry, who leans forward over a sofa. One of the artist’s ambitions for the picture was to represent ‘’the vigour of youth and the delicacy of old age’’ and the contrast in attitude between The Queen Mother and her grandson is the focal point of the picture.

Prince Harry sat for the artist in his tutor’s drawing room at Eton and at St James’s Palace. Wonnacott made a series of drawings on the spot which were then worked up in his studio into the finished work. He also made oil versions of the sketches and a comparable portrait of Prince William was sold in 2012.

The present work is thought to be the earliest pictorial representation of Prince Harry. It is a particularly lively and spontaneous image, completely lacking in the formality frequently associated with royal commissions.

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