Portrait of the artist: Critics question Boris Johnson’s vacation photo | Boris Johnson


IIt’s a busy time for the Prime Minister as he faces multiple crises including soaring energy prices, container ships hijacked from UK ports and a stalemate with the EU over the protocol from Northern Ireland.

But Boris Johnson still found the time to imitate his hero Winston Churchill by settling in a painting corner during his vacation in Marbella.

He was caught off guard, at least it seems, in a long lens photograph, standing behind an easel, painting an unknown subject in his vacation villa.

Daily Mirror front page. Photography: Daily Mirror

Still living up to Churchill’s standards – a painting of the former warlord recently sold for a record £ 7million – the Prime Minister has long been known to get into the craft, than those who know him best say he inherited from his mother.

During the Tory leadership campaign in 2019, Johnson said he stopped painting buses on old wooden crates and added “riders having fun” to his Routemasters model.

His declared love for painting sparked widespread interest at the time, with critics and ministers wondering if he had made it all up, perhaps to distract from internet searches of the infamous Brexit bus.

But Guto Harri, Johnson’s communications director when he was mayor of London, told Newsnight he knew his former boss was “a talented painter.”

“I know he was really painting little egg cartons,” Harri said, as viewers recalled a pen-and-ink scribble of a bus by Johnson raised £ 1,000 for one. children’s cancer charity.

Meanwhile, Celia Montague, an artist who painted a portrait of Johnson, revealed how the then mayor of London turned the easel to her.

“I saw Boris in the very act of creation,” she wrote in the Daily Mail. “I know he loves painting and, as a professional portrait and landscape painter, I can confirm that he is more talented than you might think.”

Montague recalled how Johnson “looked like he really wanted to do what I thought I was about to do,” so she asked him if he wanted to go.

“I’ve seen slower starts at the Grand National… standing well back from the canvas, he clenched his jaw Churchill’s way and rushed over like a swordsman.”

Johnson has declared his love of painting on several occasions. In 2011, he said: “I like to relax by painting on boxes of cheese… Now it might sound silly – and I’m not a very good painter – but I like it and I find it therapeutic. The last thing I painted was a photo of a family member in front of the Colosseum.

According to Johnson biographer Tom Bower, the Prime Minister got the paint bug from his mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl. “Her mother encouraged her painting from an early age,” Bower said. “Abandoned with [her] at the family farm in Exmoor when he was three, Johnson loved to paint buses in his mother’s colors.

Johnson Wahl, who died in September, was talented and forged a career as an artist, her paintings being described as revealing “a deep understanding of the complex human condition and an empathy for the struggle”.

Johnson Wahl, who struggled with mental illness for much of her adult life, painted 78 paintings when she was a patient at the Maudsley. An exhibition of paintings at the psychiatric hospital in 1973 sold out, as did others in Brussels in 1970 and at the Gavin Graham gallery in London in 2004. His still lifes, portraits and paintings of skyscrapers were exhibited extensively. and sold for £ 1,000 to £ 5,000.

Johnson Wahl told the Radio Times in 2015 that his son Boris was a “very good painter”. “He’s interested in leading the Conservative Party, but he might as well retire and become a painter,” she said.

But while many were quick to compare Johnson’s photograph to Churchill, Bower and another Johnson biographer, Sonia Purnell, believed the photograph of Spain was clearly staged.

“It’s supposed to be a distraction from the shitshow and it obviously works,” Purnell said. “Again. Like the paint bus thing and so many other decoys. He’s done a little painting over the years, but not much.

“Most would find it impossible to find time with a toddler, let alone being supposed to be the one who is supposed to deal with the climate crisis, Northern Ireland, this damning report on his handling of Covid, shortages food and a stalled economy. How come this photo came out? “

Churchill, an avid artist, had a studio in Chartwell, but claimed to have painted only one painting while serving as Prime Minister in WWII – of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, painted from the balcony of the Villa Taylor in 1943 while on an excursion with US President Franklin D Roosevelt.


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