An outstanding portrait of HRH The Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester has gone on display at Chester’s Grosvenor Museum. Painted by Tom Wood in 1989, the portrait was purchased thanks to the remarkable generosity of Art Fund, Philip Mould, the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Tyrer Charitable Trust, the Gerrard and Audrey Couch Charitable Trust, and the Grosvenor Museum Society.
Chester has enjoyed a special relationship with the Crown for more than seven centuries, the title Earl of Chester having been granted to the heir apparent to the English throne since 1301. Thus Prince Charles was created Earl of Chester and Prince of Wales in 1958, and was invested by The Queen with the insignia of his principality and the earldom of Chester at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.
The portrait shows the prince seated in his garden at Highgrove, with the urn-capped silhouette of the house behind. Looking directly at the viewer, with slightly parted lips and an attentive and empathetic expression, he appears ready to converse with the spectator. The shallow picture space brings the viewer close to the picture surface, making the spectator’s relationship with the prince unexpectedly intimate.
Large areas of foliage surround the prince’s head, casting dappled light and giving the painting a sense of movement. On either side of him are two brooding shadowy presences looking away, Janus-like, into the past and future. A relief of a lion’s head, heraldic symbol of British royalty, decorates the plinth, which bears objects reflecting the prince’s horticultural interests.
The artist Tom Wood was born in 1955 in the African city of Dar es Salaam, in what is now Tanzania. In 1959 he moved to Yorkshire, where he studied fine art and has spent most of his career. He has exhibited widely at home and abroad, and his work is in many public and corporate collections. Portraiture is a regular aspect of his practice and he has undertaken many commissions, including work for the National Portrait Gallery, the National Trust and several universities. He sums up his approach to portraiture as “bring no truths, tell no lies”.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing, said: “We are thrilled to have been given this remarkable painting. We are enormously grateful to the vendor, Philip Mould, for massively reducing the price, and to the five grant-making bodies which have so very generously funded this purchase – Art Fund, the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Tyrer Charitable Trust, the Gerrard and Audrey Couch Charitable Trust, and the Grosvenor Museum Society.”
Dr Stephen Deuchar, Director of Art Fund, said: “We are very pleased to support the acquisition of Tom Wood’s sensitive and insightful work – a wonderful addition to the museum’s collection.”
Clive Pointon, Chairman of the Tyrer Charitable Trust and the Gerrard and Audrey Couch Charitable Trust, and head of wills, trusts and tax at Chester law firm Aaron & Partners, said: “Prince Charles is Patron of the Friends of Chester Cathedral, was Patron of the Chester Summer Music Festival and Colonel-in-Chief of the Chester-based Cheshire Regiment, and regularly visits Chester. How appropriate that this great portrait has now found a permanent home in Chester’s Grosvenor Museum.”
Brian Dykes, Chairman of the Grosvenor Museum Society, said: “Tom Wood’s portrait of HRH The Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester is now the most striking, interesting and important painting in the museum’s collection, and will have a transformative impact on the visitor experience. This magnificent painting will be appreciated by the museum’s visitors for its remarkable artistic quality, for its psychological insight, and for the great interest and importance of the sitter.”
Born in 1948, Prince Charles is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh and heir apparent to the British throne. He took a degree at the University of Cambridge before serving in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. The Prince’s Charities, established since 1976, address the built environment, the arts, responsible business and enterprise, young people, rural affairs, and global sustainability.
The Grosvenor Museum is open Monday – Saturday 10.30-5 and Sunday 1-4, admission free, donations welcome.