Nigerian artist Oluwole Omofemi gives the Queen black hair in new Platinum Jubilee portrait

·3-min read
Artist Oluwole Omofemi with his portrait of the Queen - Oluwole Omofemi
Artist Oluwole Omofemi with his portrait of the Queen - Oluwole Omofemi

The Queen has been given a bold halo of black hair by a Nigerian artist in a new portrait.

The painting, by artist Oluwole Omofemi, was commissioned for a special collector’s edition of Tatler magazine to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee.

It will go on public display at Sotheby’s in London as part of the auction house’s jubilee season, sitting 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.

The Queen Tatler July 2022 Cover - Tatler/Oluwole Omofemi
The Queen Tatler July 2022 Cover - Tatler/Oluwole Omofemi

Most of Mr Omofemi’s portraits depict African women, for whom hair is a key part of their identity.

For him, it is “an artistic metaphor for freedom and power” and he deliberately depicted the monarch with what the magazine described as “a bold halo of black hair.”

'When I look at the Queen, I see someone who has conquered life'

Mr Omofemi 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.”

The artist said he was focused on capturing “the essence” of his subject.

“I needed to imagine I was in front of the Queen, to connect with her,” 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.”

The photograph used as the starting point for the portrait was taken around the time of the Queen’s 1956 visit to Nigeria, when Mr Omofemi’s grandfather saw her drive past, waving to everyone.

The Queen during her Commonwealth visit to Nigeria, Feb 1956 - Hulton Archive
The Queen during her Commonwealth visit to Nigeria, Feb 1956 - Hulton Archive

He described the piece as the most important project of his life so far, adding: “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.”

Richard Dennen, Tatler editor, said he wanted to commission a young Commonwealth artist to honour the Queen’s global status.

“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,” he added.

Mr Itoje, who supports the Signature African Art gallery, which represents Omofemi, 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.”

The painting will be displayed as part of Sotheby’s exhibition, Power & Image: Royal Portraiture & Iconography from May 28 until June 15 in London.

Tatler’s July issue is on sale from May 26

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