Artist Who Took 20 Years to Paint Spain’s Royal Portrait Says: “I’m not Lazy”

The portrait has finally been unveiled at Madrid's Royal Palace.

Antonio López, during the presentation of the Royal Portrait, with the former King and Queen of SpainPhoto via: RTVE
Antonio López, during the presentation of the Royal Portrait, with the former King and Queen of Spain
Photo via: RTVE

La Familia de Juan Carlos I—the portrait of the former Spanish Royal Family that has taken artist Antonio López twenty years to complete (see “After 20 Years, Portrait of Spain’s Royal Family Is (Nearly) Finished“)—has finally been presented to the public. It is shown as part of an exhibition retracing the history of Spanish Royal portraiture from the 15th century to today, which opened at Madrid’s Royal Palace yesterday.

“I don’t want anyone to think I’ve been lazy,” the 78-year-old artist told El País in an interview this week. “I haven’t painted people in a long time. If you look at my production in the last few decades, it’s mostly landscapes and cityscapes. It’s been good to reconnect with painting people, but also really hard,” continued López, who also clarified that, during these two decades, he also worked on other projects.

The unveiling of López’s monumental photorealist royal portrait was eagerly awaited. The artwork has become the butt of many jokes, which poke fun at the fact that the painter took 20 years to achieve what a camera could do in a nanosecond.

A Change in Title

The portrait was so long in the making that the artist was forced to change its title to accommodate key changes within the Spanish Royal Family. The portrait, originally entitled The Royal Family, depicts the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, his wife Queen Sofía, and their three children, the former Prince Felipe, and the Infantas Elena and Cristina.

But Juan Carlos I abdicated on June 18, after a sustained period of ill health and scandals surrounding his personal life—with recurring rumors of a love affair and money squandering—as well as that of his daughter Cristina, who is waiting to be tried for tax fraud. Cristina’s husband, Iñaki Urdangarín, has been accused of money embezzlement and is currently on trial.

Felipe VI of Spain was proclaimed King of Spain the following day, alongside his wife, Queen Letizia, a former TV journalist and news presenter. The painter was then forced to update the title to The Family of Juan Carlos I, since the portrait doesn’t depict the reigning royal family anymore.

The portrait, based on a photograph taken in 1992, has thus become a frozen memento for a happier, calmer period in the Spanish Monarchy. It can now be enjoyed at the palace alongside Royal portraits by Old Masters such as Roger van der Weyden, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Goya, and Diego Velázquez.


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