Outrage as Janitor is Chosen to Paint Portrait of Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Alastair Barford.

For his first commission, 28-year-old cleaner and aspiring painter Alastair Barford received a request that would cause even the most seasoned artists to shake in their boots: a portrait of the queen to mark the occasion of her becoming Britain’s longest-reigning monarch on September 9. What’s more, he only had about 10 minutes to observe Her Majesty.

“The whole thing was quite a shock really,” he told the Telegraph. “I had an email one Monday asking me if I would paint the Queen, and the next week I was at the Garter ceremony at Windsor Castle.”

Barford was at the castle for about two hours, but spent only a few minutes with his subject. “I made some sketches, got what I could, and had someone taking photographs, but it wasn’t a fantastic way of doing it,” he said.

The artist, who graduated from Falmouth University and is studying painting in Florence, typically spends about 40 hours with a subject. However, he has completed just 20 portraits in his lifetime, all of them part of his studies.

“It was daunting, because painting her comes with a lot of expectations as she means so much to so many people, yet I didn’t have a chance to get to know her, which I usually do with my subjects,” said the artist.

Barford says that despite the challenges, he is satisfied with the result. “But it’s hard to be pleased with any portrait because you are always comparing it with what you hoped it would be,” he admits.

The Illustrated London News (ILN) has commissioned a portrait of every monarch since Queen Victoria, and intends to use Barford’s work for a souvenir magazine and a limited edition book.

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