Ralph Heimans is a preeminent portrait painter of this era. Karl Barth wrote that God is found in Mozart’s work, the same may be said of Heimans’ art. When Penny Mountbatten organized a time for Ralph to paint me, I did not want to miss a rendezvous with his considerable artistic genius due to being too reserved or not following through, such being the case when other special opportunities arose with Cecil Beaton, Norman Parkinson, William Draper, Warhol and others. Ralph had just completed a massive portrait of Queen Elizabeth, now to be on permanent display at Westminster Abbey (see accompanying photographs of HM, Prince Phillip, Crown Princess Mary, Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy and a portrait of Madeline and Douglas).
I made one request of Ralph. Rather than oil or charcoal I preferred that he employ his considerable skill as photographer to realize my portrait in that medium so that the resulting image would join our photography collection.
Ralph’s portrait of me (shown here in the first two images, taken in my apartment), layered with much symbolism and literally yards of George Loring Brown (named after the American Romantic painter of Italian scenes) double width, 100% silk, is compelling. It is a photograph as narrative of a now mature life spent in creative efforts, textiles, politics, friendship, contemplation, art, travel, sport and championing good causes.
There is a remarkable stylistic connection between Ralph’s portrait of me and those he executed in oils of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Princess Mary and Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy. All subjects seem to be contemplating their long lives (mine an exceedingly modest one), the artistic story enhanced by the artist in the placement of furniture in each portrait, in particular chairs. In the case of the Queen, The Coronation Throne, absent from the circle she contemplates on the floor of Westminster Abbey, yet it is very much present. Please feel free to discover the “chair story” in the other portraits. Great fun.
Ralph Heimans in his portraits exceeds the Pre Raphaelites and stands with Caravaggio. He draws out the beauty and dignity in the lives of all his subjects. There is much Grace in his work.