Bryan Organ (1935-)
Organ captures the prince in a state of nonchalance, whose facial expression evokes an element of playfulness and youth as he glances out at the viewer.
This preparatory drawing is likely to be the first of several studies produced by Bryan Organ for his portrait of the Prince of Wales. The finished painting, now on display in the National Portrait Gallery, was the first painted portrait of the Prince to enter the collection and was commissioned by the Gallery’s Trustees in July 1980. One year later Organ would be commissioned to paint Lady Diana Spencer, following her engagement to Prince Charles in July 1981. He was a popular portraitist amongst the British Royal Family (he painted the Duke of Edinburgh in 1983), owing to his natural ability to expose character yet maintain a sense of formality...
Organ captures the prince in a state of nonchalance, whose facial expression evokes an element of playfulness and youth as he glances out at the viewer. This light-heartedness embodied in his slight smile is missing from the finished painting, suggesting that Organ wished to make his sitter appear more serious: the image was intended as a formal portrait. Nonetheless a carefree aspect remains in the finished painting through his casual dress of polo clothes, a sport he continued to play for forty years (the details of his attire are less obvious in the study). Perhaps Organ’s final intention was to make Prince Charles appear relaxed and casual, a modern man, yet a serious figure aware of his obligation. In the study, however, he allows a larger portion of youthful personality to shine through.
Another study for the painting, which is also in the National Portrait Gallery collection, shows the prince in a front-facing pose, and displays the inscriptions: Study for Prince of Wales – Petwrth August 1980 / Bryan Organ in the bottom right hand corner and 6 – August 1980 / Petworth in the top right hand corner. Therefore, we can deduce that this study was produced later than the drawing in question due to its attributed month as well as its categorisation with the number 6 (the number 6 is circled suggesting it refers to the identity of the study rather than its date, meaning it is perhaps the sixth drawing of this type produced by Organ). It is unsurprising that Organ, aware of the value of his work, even of his studies, produced several before his completion of the painting itself.
Furthermore, the attitude of Prince Charles in the Betty Sutton study is closer in similarity to that of the finished painting. This affinity in the sitter’s pose, as well as its lack of an identifying number suggests it is the first preparatory study of its kind.