The orphan who painted the Queen

2nd December 2021

He started life in an Indian orphanage and went on to paint the Royal family. Now Norman Douglas Hutchinson’s famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has sold at auction for £6,875.

The 5 foot high painting was executed in 1987 and hung for several years in Mansion House in Doncaster. A disagreement between Doncaster council and the artist resulted in Hutchinson taking the portrait back several years later and it was sold to a friend of his, the collector Caroline Brown, in 2000.

“Caroline was a model for Hutchinson as well as a friend of his, and the painting being sold as part of her collection of his works on Wednesday 8th December,” said Victor Fauvelle, head of Paintings at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury. “She described him as having been ‘totally outrageous’ and stories about him certainly back that up. In many ways it is therefore something of a surprise that he was commissioned to paint not only Prince Philip and the Queen Mother, but also the Queen herself.”

The portrait of the Queen caused something of a stir when it was unveiled in 1988, appearing on the front page of the Daily Mail described as “The Stern Queen”, while the Telegraph joined in with likening it to earlier portraits of Queen Victoria.

“Ironically it may have been Hutchinson’s lowly upbringing which cemented his future with the Royals,” considered Fauvelle. “The patron of the orphanage where he was brought up was Lady Mountbatten, and she commissioned him to paint her when he was just 18. It was her nephew by marriage, Prince Philip, who was the first to sit for his portrait with Hutchinson. But, of course, it was the portrait of Queen Elizabeth herself that cemented the artist’s reputation.”

Also included in the collection was a portrait of the vendor, titled 'The Aging Dancer' - a title that Caroline said was revenge for her continuing refusal to go to bed with Hutchinson. It sold to a private collector for £5,250.

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