THE PRINCE of Wales unveiled Michael Noakes’s new portrait of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher last Wednesday, March 25, commissioned by the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Mr Noakes, who attended Downside and is a former president of the Society of Catholic Artists, is the only painter to have been given time by Pope Benedict XVI for a portrait commissioned by the Vatican which now hangs there.
The Prince was at the Royal Hospital to open the new Margaret Thatcher Infirmary.
The painting will then be shown in the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in the Mall Galleries near Trafalgar Square, with a private view on May 6.
Mroasaid last week: “I wanted to show [Lady Thatcher] at her best as she is now, but without flattery. Because of who she is, the picture will perhaps be around for a very long time.” The painting was too big for the artist to travel around with, so during sittings he worked “at a remove” from it, he said, on related drawings and studies. Sittings were in Mr Noakes’s London studio overlooking Regent’s Park and in Lady Thatcher’s home in Belgravia. Of his portrait of the Pope, he said: “I suggested to Pope Benedict that his portrait would hang in the Vatican for hundreds of years, short of nuclear attack or voracious mice.
“He was with me all the way, nodding agreement, until I reached the mice bit. That, he obviously felt, was not quite what he expected to happen in the Vatican.” Mr Noakes will also be showing at the same exhibition a drawing of his old school friend Dom Christopher Delaney OSB, a monk of Buckfast Abbey and priest for 40 years in the parish of St Mary of the Angels, Cardiff. Fr Delaney’s portrait was featured in the Catholic Life pages of this newspaper in January.
“I will also be showing a portrait of the Princess Royal in the exhibition,” Mr Noakes added. “That is for the Special Forces club, showing her as Patron. It is the sixth time I have painted her.” Mr Noakes has painted scores of distinguished sitters. Among the Catholics he has painted are Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, twice – once for Westminster and once for the Venerable English College, Rome – and Cardinal Hume.
He recently completed a portrait of Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds.