‘Incredibly Disturbing’ King Charles Portrait Is Actually Awesome

Gage Klipper Commentary & Analysis Writer
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Like most conservatives, I was brought up with a healthy reverence for the Old Masters. Unless it was painted by Rembrandt or sculpted by Michelangelo, it wasn’t really art.

Now, I’m no art critic, but I’ve since come to understand that this view is, to use an unfortunate leftist term, reactionary.

The modern era has bombarded us with so much hideous art — everything from piles of dirt to the menstrual art movement to a rotting banana taped to a wall — and demanded that we call it beautiful, that we tend to over-correct. Museums exhibit it, critics exalt it, and wealthy would-be sophisticates pay top dollar to own it, all part of an elaborate humiliation ritual to force us to reject our own senses — and by extension, our collective identities. So we dig in our heels, refusing to acknowledge anything past the Renaissance as true art. But there’s a reason both the Soviets and Nazis rejected modern art as “decadent” and “degenerate”: some of it is goodMore importantly, some of it can truly be damning to the powers-that-be.

Jonathon Yeo’s portrait of King Charles III is one fine example. Unveiled Tuesday, it is the first portrait of Charles since his coronation, and it includes some interesting artistic choices, to say the least.

The portrait shows Charles as an ethereal figure, emerging from what some called an “incredibly disturbing” backdrop. Much of the six-foot painting is engulfed in a blaze of highly textured reds and oranges, creating a fiery atmosphere that can only be described as hellish. Charles is mostly submerged in the conflagration, with only his pale wizened face and tufts of gray hair shining through. The other elements — the golden embroidery and navy sash of his military regalia, his black-sheathed saber clasped calmly in both hands — show only the faintest hint of the true colors through the flames. A monarch butterfly hovers just above Charles’ right shoulder to represent the transformation from Prince to King, the most banal metaphor in an otherwise innovative painting.

While the late Queen Elizabeth II sat for a handful of modern artists, Yeo’s painting appears to be a firm departure from traditional royal portraiture. The “Armada Portrait” of Elizabeth I shows her wearing her weight in jewels; her hand rests quite literally on the globe as her fleet defends the English Channel behind her.  A famous painting of Victoria highlights her youthful grace and intricate lace as the heavens unfurl behind her. Portraits of Henry VIII typically contrast his stern gaze with his opulent dress, daring anyone to brave his notoriously capricious whims. Perhaps most striking of all, Gascar’s portrait of James II depicts him as Mars, the Roman god of war, before he was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Despite stylistic change over the centuries, these royal portraits are all grounded in realism and portray consistent themes. They capture the nobility of the sovereign, the grandeur of the throne, and above all, denote the monarch’s divine right to rule. In this sense, Charles’ portrait is not so different after all; it is merely updated for the modern era.

It would be wrong to paint Charles in the style and garb of 17th century leviathan. Great art is a reflection of the world as the artist sees it, and the world that produced the Old Masters no longer exists. God and Country hold very little sway in our modern world. There is no real belief in divine right anymore as it existed for the masters who worked to exalt God. War, conquest, an all-powerful sovereign at the vanguard of national greatness — all hold an entirely different place in our consciousness then they did in the days of empire. Our artistic vision has evolved, or perhaps devolved. As such, copying the classics can only ever be just that — a copy — and produce nothing more than a second-rate work.

There are no more Rembrandts or Michelangelos in our ranks, even if we wanted there to be, because the world as it is can no longer produce them. Our world has changed, and art has moved along with it.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A bold embrace of the future is necessary, but it must take into account the lessons of the past. Yeo’s portrait seems to do just that. Rich in color and sly emotion, the painting is every bit as decadent and grandiose as its forebears.

Red is historically the color used by British royalty to represent power and authority, often seen in throne rooms and state uniforms. But the red used in Yeo’s painting doesn’t exactly exude timeless nobility; it’s the glaring neon of an expensive nightclub, the radioactive glow of Campari through crystal. The saturation creates an aura of youthful arrogance around the oldest man ever crowned king of England.

His facial expression conveys a sense of realism within the surreal. A slightly furrowed brow gives the impression of a compassionate stare, but it’s belied by a thinly twisted smile taking sardonic pleasure in the blaze around him. His power flows not from a belief in his right to rule, divine or otherwise. His reign is the random outcome of unpredictable historical forces in which Charles himself is caught just like the rest of us. And he plans to enjoy every minute of it.

Yeo’s Charles is a man of great power who answers to no one but himself. There’s just one problem: nothing could be further from the truth.

Monarchs no longer have any real power, but hold a symbolic role of continuity and tradition — but even that, Charles rejects. The coronation liturgy imbues him with the power to “restore the things that are gone to decay” and “punish and reform what is amiss,” but with the Swords of Justice forever sheathed, Charles stands impotent. He cannot perform his God-given duties, and if he tried, Parliament would simply abolish the monarchy and declare Britain a republic.

New-age climate activism now stands in for empire and warring fleets. In lieu of royal opulence, he opts for a “slimmed down” monarchy, cutting both costs and duties. He is an accommodationist standard bearer, happily accepting his weak role as a global dilettante rather than King of England.

We need more great art like Yeo’s, but we also need more subjects who are worthy of it. Charles represents the wimpy liberal internationalist worldview that is currently croaking out its death rattle. A new Glorious Revolution already underway. The present leviathan, the intricate system of globalist manipulators and oligarchs, will not last much longer — but its successor will not be like the monarchs of the past. The restoration of greatness will require an entirely new vision of right and power. (RELATED: ‘It’s Not Good’: Funeral Plans Are Already Underway For King Charles, Royal Source Claims: REPORT)

There is nothing wrong with exalting power, but it must be for a subject — and aim — that is worthy. The threat that the Soviets and the Nazis felt from modern art could never be replicated by a portrait of Charles, no matter how powerfully he is depicted, because he is a byproduct of the very regime that truly transgressive, innovative art would challenge. Divine right will not inspire restoration, and the vapid ugliness of most modern art won’t either. But something, or someone, will — and it will be the artist’s job to convey it with truth and beauty when it does.