Royal troops rehearse for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee
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The painting, commissioned for a special collector’s edition of Tatler magazine to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne, will go on public display at Sotheby’s in London as part of the auction house’s jubilee season. Hair is a key part of African women’s identity – hence Mr Omofemi’s decision to make it a central part of the piece.
The artist described the Monarch’s hair colour in the painting as “an artistic metaphor for freedom and power”.
He said: “Many of the great things the Queen achieved came at a very young age, so I have painted her with black hair.
“I also wanted to introduce my own style into this painting and, for me, hair represents the power of the woman.”
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The Queen’s portrait will sit alongside portraits of each of the seven queens regnant of Britain, including the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, on loan from the Woburn Abbey collection.
When working on the portrait, the artist said, he imagined he was “in front of the Queen”, which helped him “to connect with her” and capture “the essence” of his subject.
Of what the 96-year-old Monarch conveys to the 34-year-old African painter, he said: “She is the longest-reigning (monarch), and when I look at her, I see someone who has conquered life.
“She understands what she needs to do and she knows she can do it well.”
Mr Omofemi’s grandfather saw the Queen drive past, waving to everyone, at her 1956 visit to Nigeria. The photograph taken at the time has served the artist as a starting point for his piece now.
The piece, Mr Omofemi stressed, was his career’s most important project so far.
He said: “Growing up, I heard a lot of good things about the Queen and how impactful she is – not just in the United Kingdom but to the Commonwealth and all over the world.
“She was so young and yet she had already undertaken so much.”
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Richard Dennen, Tatler’s editor, said it was no coincidence he commissioned a young Commonwealth artist. It was a way to honour Her Majesty’s global status.
He recalled: “It was England rugby player and art connoisseur Maro Itoje who introduced me to Oluwole Omofemi, a young artist based in south Nigeria, whose bold and unique style I knew immediately would lend itself to this historic moment.”
Mr Omofemi is represented by Signature African Art.
Mr Itoje, who supports the gallery, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure working on this project alongside Oluwole Omofemi and Tatler.
“Projects as special as this one do not come around very often…
“This piece of art captures the strength, elegance and dignity that the Queen has symbolised in her 70 years on the throne and it has been an honour being a part of this historic story.”
Tatler’s July issue is on sale from May 26 and the cover portrait is on display at Sotheby’s exhibition, Power & Image: Royal Portraiture & Iconography from May 28 to June 15 in London
More from the artist about creating the cover of the Queen, here
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