Saturday, 5 April 2014


Simon Weston (c) National Portrait Gallery
There will be a programme about this picture on BBC One on 13 April at 5.35pm to 6.35pm

It's difficult to stand for any length of time in front of this near life-size painting without being deeply moved. The gallery's director, Sandy Nairne, called it "a powerful portrait of Simon Weston as a strong and inspiring character". Here is the solid substance of a Falklands War veteran, his  badly burned hands clutching medals draped over the back of a chair, which provide the only splash of colour in a sombre palette. And then you look at his is a face which needed more than 70 operations - and an infinite amount of courage and skill - to reconstruct.Simon Weston joined the Welsh Guards in 1978 when he was 16. He suffered 46% burns  while aboard the Sir Galahad during the Falklands war, in an incident when  22 of his companions were killed.

First known for his injuries, Simon Weston is now a writer, a businessman and an inspirational figure who has raised millions of pounds for charities. In a joint venture between the NPG and the BBC he was chosen by viewers of  BBC1's The One Show as the public figure they most wanted to be portrayed. On April 13th you can watch  The People's Portrait, a TV documentary telling the full story.

The National Portrait Gallery has another of  Nicky Philipps' paintings. There is a military connection between the two but the subjects are very different.  Prince William, then 27 and training to be an RAF search-and-rescue pilot, wears his dress uniform with the blue sash and star of the Order of the Garter, and the Queen''s Golden Jubilee medal. Harry, 25, also wears a Jubilee medal alongside his award for service in Afghanistn. It's a remarkable work, capturing an intimate  moment between two family members, modern young men  who are also being true to the tradition which comes from being a member of the Royal Family.

Incidentally, the painting of Simon Weston hangs next to a portrait of 'Kate Middleton', as she was described by the gallery staff member who pointed out the way. Like Simon another commoner, but this time one who has an intimate relationship with one of the princes - she is the Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William and the mother of their baby son Prince George.
 MY LATEST BOOK: Things My Mothers Never Told Me  by Yvonne Craig Inskip, available on line as a paperback and an Ebook.
To read more about the paintings and the artist go to 
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