Stephen Harper presents portrait to the Queen
Following a private, 20-minute audience with the Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was joined by Governor General David Johnston to present a new portrait of Her Majesty. The massive portrait — measuring about nine feet by six feet — was the third of the Queen commissioned by the Canadian government during her 60-year reign.
“This portrait represents the appreciation of all Canadians for 60 years of outstanding service to our country and the Commonwealth,” Prime Minister Harper was quoted by Postmedia News.
“I would be honoured if you would do us the pleasure of unveiling the portrait.”
The painting, by Toronto artist Phil Richards, will be displayed at the Canadian High Commission’s cultural centre — Canada House — in London’s Trafalgar Square until next week. It will then be returned to Canada and installed at Rideau Hall, home of the governor general.
Richards, whose previous works include the official painting of former Ontario premier Bob Rae, told the press that Queen Elizabeth did not sit for the portrait — but he did meet with her to discuss his ideas for the painting. Over the course of the two-year project, he was also given access to thousands of photographs of the Queen throughout the decades of her reign.
His vision was to portray her as “the ultimate matriarchal figure, almost like Queen of the world, not just of the Commonwealth.” The painting shows Her Majesty standing by a desk at Rideau Hall in front of a Canadian flag. In the background is the Queen’s great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria.
Before the final portrait was done, the artist sent Queen Elizabeth sketches and a photo of the painting.
At the unveiling, she was reportedly impressed by its sheer size. “It’s changed quite a bit since I last saw it,” she said to Richards, according to the Postmedia News report.
“Yes, it went from six inches to this,” Richards replied.
“Do you think you’ll have to rebuild Rideau Hall?” she asked Johnston.
The unveiling followed several days of celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Britain.