The Daily Telegraph

She said, ‘Lord Snowdon does this all the time’



I was commission­ed by the Royal Society of Arts to do the portrait and was given free rein. I think they knew what to expect because some of my previous paintings had been experiment­al and modern, so it was obvious the portrait would be similarly striking.

I had to take Polaroids of Queen Elizabeth to use for the later painting sessions, because I only had two or three in-person sittings; I had been taking the Polaroids so close to her that they fell in her lap after they finished developing. She said it was fine and that: “Lord Snowdon does this all the time.” I hadn’t been briefed on the correct way to address her or anything, so I called her “Ma’am” in the Yorkshire way, instead of how it’s supposed to be said (like “ham”). I was only 27 at the time, so I possessed some of that sort of natural arrogance of youth, which helped to relieve the pressure of the job.

The painting was finished after the death of Princess Diana. It was a very tumultuous period in the late Queen’s reign. I think it actually worked quite well for the Palace, how modern it was, because it seemed to symbolise how the institutio­n was going through a period of upheaval but also trying to change.

Although it was definitely a lot of pressure, I felt confident in my ability to deliver a good painting, and I’m still proud of it.

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