Diana and the Prince of Fails.

Back in the day, 1994/5-ish, during a time when I was rumoured to be the future of British figurative painting I was invited to a shindig at the National portrait gallery.

At some stage near the back end of the evening I was approached by the NPG’s 20th century curator Robin Gibson, alongside him a very smartly dressed gentleman unknown to me.

Robin Gibson was a keen supporter of my work and I had got to know him a little over the years of my association with the gallery.

After some general chat, Robin casually asked me how I would respond if anyone ever asked me to paint a member of the Royal family.

As an idealistic young cove and a rabid republican (not in the modern American sense of the word) I said that I didn’t think I could consider such a commission. I seem to remember feeling a certain awkwardness enter the conversation and the be-suited gentleman observing me with a new coldness in his eyes but otherwise thought nothing more about it.

A few months later at another NPG event, I was talking to one of the NPG’s grandees who applauded my courage in turning down the opportunity to paint the most famous woman in the world, Lady Diana.

The be-suited gentleman was of course some kind of Equerry to Diana.

Possibly wasn’t the greatest career move of my life, but there it is.

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