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Theresa May’s official portrait draws strong praise and sarcasm on social media

The striking portrait has garnered both high praise and criticism on social media.
The striking portrait has garnered both high praise and criticism on social media. Copyright Parliamentary Art Collection, in the publicly accessible area of the first floor of Portcullis House.
Copyright Parliamentary Art Collection, in the publicly accessible area of the first floor of Portcullis House.
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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Theresa May says it's a 'huge honour' to have been captured on canvas but others have described her official parliamentary portrait as a 'true horror'.

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A portrait of former  UK prime minister Theresa May was unveiled in parliament this week.

The painting by artist Saied Dai cost €33,000 (£28,000) and was commissioned by the Speaker's advisory committee on works of art.

The striking work has garnered both high praise and criticism on social media.

One user on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, described the painting as “barnstorming” and said they were glad to have been introduced to Dai’s work.

Another user called it “terrifying” saying the former prime minister “looks like a vampire.”

The portrait depicts Britain’s second female premier standing three-quarters turned towards the viewer dressed in a heavy dark blue coat against a background of emerald green drapery.

Her pose and her classic red and blue attire recall 19th-century portraits of statesmen or military leaders.

May wears a guarded, even imperious, expression and stares straight out at the viewer. One social media user said she looks “magnificently isolated.”

"In this portrait, the aim was to produce not just a convincing physical likeness, but also a psychological characterisation, both individual and yet archetypal - imbued with symbolism and atmosphere,” Dai said of his work.

"A good painting needs to be a revelation and also paradoxically, an enigma. It should possess an indefinable quality - in short, a mystery."

The chiselled style of the face has been likened to Cubism while others have noted influences from Central European expressionists like Schiele.

The faceted surfaces and jewel-like colours also recall works by Vorticist artists like Wyndham Lewis.

The portrait looks set to bring significant fame to artist Dai, who was born in Tehran and now lives in Bath.

“I should think the richest and most famous will be clambering to sit for Saied Dai after his Theresa May portrait,” X user Josh Barrie posted. “Such a fabulous painter. His £15k starting fee will be long gone too I suppose.”

Some members of the public have expressed displeasure that May received such a distinctive portrait saying she “doesn’t deserve it.”

One X user said the painting was “great” but “knowing who it is [is] all that’s wrong with it.”

May described the portrait as a “huge honour.”

The artwork will be housed in the Parliamentary Art Collection, in the publicly accessible area of the first floor of Portcullis House.

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