New portrait of Theresa May is unveiled in Parliament as artist reveals he wanted £28,000 painting to be a ‘psychological characterisation’ of the former Prime Minister
Even Theresa May’s staunchest defenders would hardly describe her as a barrel of laughs.
Famously, the Mail’s Quentin Letts asked Mrs May during the 2017 general election campaign whether she felt she was coming across as ‘a bit of a glumbucket’.
But a new portrait of the former prime minister arguably depicts her looking even more gloomy than she looked in her political heyday.
The painting, by artist Saied Dai, was unveiled at Westminster yesterday and will eventually hang in Portcullis House, Parliament’s offices.
Mrs May is shown wearing a blue suit with a navy coat hanging over her shoulders. She holds a lily of the valley – a plant associated with the month of May.
Captured: The portrait of Theresa May will be displayed in Portcullis House
Former prime minister Theresa May speaking in the House of Commons earlier this year
The artist said he tried to convey a ‘psychological characterisation’ of the former Tory leader as well as a ‘convincing physical likeness’ in the picture, which was commissioned for £28,000 by the Speaker’s advisory committee on works of art.
Mr Dai explained: ‘A good painting needs to be a revelation and also paradoxically, an enigma. It should possess an indefinable quality – in short, a mystery.’ Mrs May said the portrait was a ‘huge honour’.
MP Dean Russell, chairman of the committee, said: ‘The Parliamentary Art Collection records those who have made an important contribution to politics and public service.
He said: ‘Few embody this more than Theresa May – our second female Prime Minister, as well as a devoted Parliamentarian and a dedicated public servant.’
But one Westminster insider said: ‘It’s really rather grim. Like something that might adorn the walls of the Kremlin at the height of the Soviet era.’ Paintings of former PMs are usually hung in Portcullis House at first as they cannot move to the Palace of Westminster until they have been out of office for two terms.
Saied Dai trained at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and is a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2004 and the New English Art Club.
Dour piece straight out of Socialist Realism
CRITIQUE By Harry Mount
Forward to victory, my revolutionary brothers! Let the People’s Glorious Leader reign for 1,000 years!
That’s the impression the former prime minister Theresa May’s portrait by Saied Dai, for Portcullis House, conveys.
With its sharp angles, blocks of bold colour and unsmiling expression, it’s straight out of Socialist Realism – the school of painting developed by Communist artists in Soviet Russia from 1932 to 1988.
It’s a school still popular with grumpy Little Rocket Man, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who continues to rule in the style of the Russian commies.
Poor Theresa May’s leadership wasn’t quite so supreme, having found herself forced out of Downing Street after a mere three years in the job.
She has a reputation for being one of the most dour politicians of her generation but this painting manages to make her look even more downcast than she is in real life.
Harry Mount taught art history at Sotheby’s Institute of Art