Portrait artist describes Queen as ‘awe-inspiring’
Former Bermuda resident Henry Ward has described painting the Queen in celebration of her 60 years as a patron of the British Red Cross as the highest honour in his 20-year career as a portrait artist.
Mr Ward, who moved to Bermuda when his late father Martyn Ward became a puisne judge in the Supreme Court in 1987 and whose mother is Bermudian, unveiled the oil painting to the world's longest-standing monarch at a ceremony at Windsor Castle on Friday.
And while he is “deeply honoured” to have been given the opportunity to depict a figure held in such high regard, he is also thrilled to be able to support the British Red Cross for the tireless humanitarian work it does globally.
Mr Ward, whose work has been exhibited in the early biennials of the Bermuda National Gallery as well as numerous solo shows, told The Royal Gazette: “There is no higher profile subject than Her Majesty for a portrait artist to work with and I was deeply honoured to be given the opportunity.
“What I was aiming to accomplish through the portrait of the Queen was a Queen of warmth, a strong Queen, a Queen who has sat on the throne for 63 years as our monarch.
“My intention was to create a regal portrait and combine imagery for the two roles. Her Majesty is awe-inspiring and you come away feeling that you are talking to an immensely warm and beautiful person — otherworldly.
“As a portrait of the Queen, I believe it should have gravitas and that involved me trying to create a painting that has the austerity necessary with the drama of the garter robes etc, and to get her character. When you meet her in person she comes across as warm yet immensely powerful. It can be very tricky to get that balance.”
Mr Ward has been a great supporter of the British Red Cross over the years which, along with his reputation as an established artist, contributed to him being chosen by the charity to paint the portrait. He added: “From my perspective as a British Red Cross committee member, I am extremely committed to doing anything I can to support them.
“This story has gone global — literally all over the world. For me I feel it is wonderful, and for the British Red Cross, and we have done a wonderful job to promote their work. You see terrible things happening in Syria at the moment. It couldn't be a more important time to be supporting a humanitarian organisation. This was my gift to British Red Cross — part of my reason for doing this was to develop awareness for their work and there can be no higher endorsement than Her Majesty to agree to sit for a portrait celebrating her patronage of the charity.”
Mr Ward, who is now based in Canada, said he was not at liberty to discuss the Queen's reaction to the piece, but did say that they discussed the intricacies of the painting together for some 25 minutes after it was unveiled.
Asked whether he accomplished what he set out to, Mr Ward added: “From my own intentions, I feel like I have. Rembrandt said that “a work of art is complete when a master has achieved their intention in it”.
The international attention could be good for Bermuda as it is Mr Ward's intention to eventually open a new exhibition here — Faces From The Dark — which “propounds the equality of all people regardless of race, background or religious bearing”.
He has already completed some portraits of Bermudians for the show due to be held at BNG including his good friend, artist Graham Foster. He is also working on a show around the same theme for Landau Fine Art in Montreal, which represents the artist exclusively.
Mr Ward added: “I have a long relationship with Bermuda through my family and it has always been a place I call home. Both Lisa Howie [BNG director] and Sophie Cressell [BNG curator] have been incredibly supportive throughout the whole of my career and have been absolutely pivotal in helping not only me but many members of the art fraternity in that wonderful gallery.”
A first public viewing of the Queen's portrait is scheduled for November 4 at the Carlton Towers Hotel, in Knightsbridge, London. Tickets are available on the British Red Cross website www.redcross.org.uk or by contacting Jeremy Summerfield firstname.lastname@example.org