King Charles III Portrait Artist Jonathan Yeo Is Enjoying All of Your Memes

Artist Jonathan Yeo and King Charles III
Artist Jonathan Yeo and King Charles III stand in front of the portrait at Buckingham Palace on May 14, 2024 in London. Aaron Chown-WPA Pool/Getty Images
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Artist Jonathan Yeo is overjoyed by the divided reaction to his official portrait of King Charles III.

Yeo, 53, unveiled the mostly red portrait at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, May 14. The first official portrait of Charles since his coronation sent a shockwave through the internet with art critics and social media users alike divided by the work’s bold use of color.

Yeo’s bold choice led to a host of online conspiracy theories, of which his teenage daughter has kept him updated. “My [17-year-old] daughter was much too keen to show me all the crazy stuff about the painting on TikTok,” he told The Sunday Times on May 19. “She’s … had the best day of her life with all of the conspiracies about the painting, saying I’m a Satanist and Illuminati.”

The portrait shows Charles III in his Welsh Guards uniform holding a sword and decked out in military medals. A monarch butterfly hovers over his right shoulder. However, the overwhelming feature of the portrait is the layer of red paint covering nearly every inch of the work. Yeo previously explained his use of red, saying that he’d hoped to “distract” viewers from the bright red uniform of the Guards.

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Yeo shared via Instagram that his “mind has truly been blown” by the debate around his paintings.

“It’s strangely reassuring to know a painted portrait can still spark so many conversations in an image-saturated age,” he wrote on Thursday, May 16, before needling the tin foil hat crowd. “If there’s anyone who hasn’t come up with their own outlandish interpretation yet, feel free to stick one in the comments below. A copy of The Da Vinci Code for the most original.”

Artist Jonathan Yeo and King Charles III portrait
Artist Jonathan Yeo and his portrait of King Charles III. Aaron Chown-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Yeo said there may have been some underlying motivations for bathing the king in so much red. He suffered a heart attack during the three-year process of painting the King, adding that it was not something he “was conscious of.”

“It was just: I like this color,” he said.

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Yeo is used to the spotlight that comes with painting a royal portrait. He was first commissioned in 2008 to paint Prince Philip and has grown close to the royal family over two more portraits: Queen Camilla in 2014 and this most recent painting of Charles. He told the Boston Globe on Friday, May 17 that the divided reaction didn’t weigh on him, since he’d already wowed his most important critic.

“When [Camilla] looked at it and smiled straight away, I thought, ‘OK, phew! That’s the important one,” he said.