‘It was a true honour’

Artist Jonathan Yeo’s official portrait of King Charles III – the first official portrait of his reign – may have divided the critics for its use of vibrant reds.

However, by all accounts it is well-liked by the monarch, so much so that (despite an attack on it by animal rights activists which, fortunately, did no damage), it is due to be relocated from London’s Philip Mould Gallery to Buckingham Palace itself.

Commissioned by The Drapers’ Company, the portrait depicts King Charles wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, of which he was made Colonel in 1975.

When it came to illuminating the portrait, Philip Mould turned to TM Lighting, a specialist in art and portraiture lighting, who are known for having lit works by Vermeer, Gainsborough, and Rembrandt in the collection of Kenwood House, among other spaces.

‘It was a true honour to be asked to do this commission; a real honour,’ TM Lighting co-founder Andrew Molyneux tells Lighting Journal.

For the commission, TM Lighting used six GalleryOneThirty (G130) track-mounted high CRI LED spotlights, which provide 98+ CRI, an ultra-narrow 9-degree beam, all of which are important when it comes to portrait lighting, Andrew explains.

‘For us, it is all about the 3 “Cs”: colour temperature, CRI and colour consistency,’ Andrew says. ‘We’ve always made a point, and especially since the arrival of LED, of not lighting artworks with anything less than 97 CRI because, obviously, we want the fullest and best colour rendition we can have. To ensure authenticity of colour in the artwork.’

For this portrait, one of the challenges was that it was very tall, and then the geometry of the room was such that the lighting needed to be carefully positioned to ensure there was no reflected glare.

To that end, gallery track lights were placed either side of the artwork to cross-light the portrait so as to ensure the main viewing positions remained glare free.

The very red palette also presented something of a challenge. ‘For the Charles III portrait, there was some controversy around the colour of the piece, the use of the reds. But it is a portrait that uses colour in a very clever way; when you fire off a shot on your mobile phone, it does not pick up the authenticity of the artwork,’ Andrew emphasises.

‘We lit it between 3000K and 3500K, because the reds were so dominant. Also, it was being displayed at that time in a room with daylight (cooler colour temperature). So, we lit it a tiny bit cooler than we ordinarily would have done. Using a neutral colour of light, instead of a warm colour temperature which would over saturate the reds, helped capture the true colours of the artwork both in person and when photographed,’ Andrew adds.

  • Look out for the full version of this article in next month’s (July/August) edition of Lighting Journal

Image courtesy of Philip Mould

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