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Artist Ward remembers the Queen, shines light on Bermuda

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Unveiling: From left, Henry Ward and his wife Tracy with Maria Shammas, founder of the international fundraising committee of the British Red Cross, Queen Elizabeth II and David Bernstein, chairman of the British Red Cross (Photograph supplied)

To take preliminary photographs of ship pilot Kristen Greene, Henry Ward hung over the side of Spirit of Bermuda tethered by a rope.

He met Dennis Fagundo and John Pereira, the founders of D & J Construction, in a large, very dark warehouse.

As one might expect, he spent a great deal of time at In Motion School of Dance as he prepared preliminary sketches of students at the Reid Street studio.

It was all for From Darkness to Light, his exhibit of portraits, which ends its run at the Bermuda National Gallery today.

Mr Ward will give a talk about his work and techniques at the gallery this evening. Tickets are sold out.

He chose his subjects for their historic significance or contribution to the community.

“There are so many incredibly talented people in Bermuda, it was difficult to know who to go for,” he said.

One of the most challenging persons to paint was David Wingate. Mr Ward considers the former government conservation officer a hero.

“He was living out there on Nonsuch Island and saved a species from extinction,” the 52-year-old said. “I just respect all my subjects so much, but I really respected his reverence for his subject, the beautiful cahow.”

He painted the birds in various life stages as part of Dr Wingate’s portrait.

All of the portraits are painted against a black background to highlight the darkness of space.

“Regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or difference, we are all one species existing on a tiny point of life within the midst of the universe,” Mr Ward said.

He considers Bermuda a most amazing place to work.

Queen Elizabeth II examines the portrait of herself painted by artist Henry Ward (Photograph supplied)

“It is not just the iridescent light here,” he said. “You have that British eccentricity crossed with Caribbean influences that makes for a very unique perspective.”

He moved to Bermuda at age 16 when his late father, Martyn Ward, became a puisne judge in the Supreme Court. His mother, Rosana Cox, still lives on the island.

During his early years as an artist, he worked in Brooklyn, New York.

“Then, after 9/11, it became one of those complex places to live in, and you had to be very dedicated,” he said.

Mr Ward now lives in Ontario, Canada, with his wife, Tracy, and their three children, Xander, 17, Quin, 14, and Zac, 11. He returns to Bermuda frequently and was last here when his BNG show opened in May.

He started painting the 12 portraits in From Darkness to Light in 2014, but was interrupted by a more high-profile subject, Queen Elizabeth II.

“I was a member of the international fundraising committee of the British Red Cross,” Mr Ward said. “Our job was to create unusual opportunities for the charity to raise their profile and revenue.”

Because the Queen was patron of the British Red Cross for more than 50 years, Mr Ward suggested that he might paint her, as a way to raise the organisation’s profile.

“One of my good friends was Her Majesty’s gentleman usher,” he said.

“I was on a train headed to the airport to fly back to Bermuda, when I got this message that my approach to paint her portrait would be warmly received.”

It took a year of phone calls between Toronto and London to hash out the details of a portrait session.

“I was absolutely overjoyed,” Mr Ward said.

In 2015 he and his wife were invited to Windsor Palace to tour the Queen’s quarters, which inspired Mr Ward to paint Her Majesty in her yellow drawing room.

He requested that she wear garter robes and clothing associated with her great grandmother, Queen Alexandra, who became the British Red Cross president in 1905.

The Queen also wore a tiara, bracelet and necklace once owned by her great grandmother, who died in 1925.

“Tracy and I drove up to Windsor Castle and were waved in as guests of the Queen,” Mr Ward said. “It was wonderful.

“At 11am we were presented to the Queen. There was a sound of silk and velvet on the carpet. When she walked in wearing garter robes, it was breathtaking. She was diminutive in stature, but had an incredible presence.”

He presented her with framed graphite sketches he had done of her great grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

“She was thrilled with that,” the artist said.

He spent several hours doing preliminary sketches and photographs, and got along well with the late monarch but admitted that painting the portrait was quite stressful.

“You know, a million people from now until the rest of time will be looking at it,” he said. “And everyone has their vision of who the Queen is.”

He also wanted to be mindful of her age. He did not want to make her look much younger, but also wanted the portrait to be complimentary.

Kristen Greene poses for Henry Ward on the Spirit of Bermuda. The artist is tethered by rope with a safety net below him (Photograph supplied)

It was clear to Mr Ward that the Queen liked it because she agreed to unveil it when it was done. The only other portrait of herself she unveiled was her favourite, Pietro Annigoni’s Queen Elizabeth II, which was painted in 1955.

Mr Ward’s portrayal hangs in the Savoy Hotel in London.

“That was great because the Queen had her first-ever date with the Duke of Edinburgh there,” said Mr Ward, who was “hit hard” when she died on September 8.

“She was immensely kind,” he said.

Tickets to BNG Talks: Henry Ward, are sold out. For more information: bng.bm/bng-talks/

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Published November 08, 2022 at 7:44 am (Updated November 09, 2022 at 7:47 am)

Artist Ward remembers the Queen, shines light on Bermuda

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