July 31 2014 Latest news:

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 24°C

min temp: 17°C

Five-day forecast

Highgate artist commissioned to paint new portrait of Diana Princess of Wales

Diana and Zohar at the original sitting in 1990 Diana and Zohar at the original sitting in 1990

Thursday, December 6, 2012
11:46 AM

As an unknown artist who had only recently arrived in England, Israel Zohar was shocked when he was hand-picked to paint a formal portrait of the Princess of Wales.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

Artist Israel Zohar working in his Highgate studio on a sketch for his new portrait of DianaArtist Israel Zohar working in his Highgate studio on a sketch for his new portrait of Diana

Now, as Prince William and wife Kate announce they are expecting their first child – a baby who would have been Diana’s first grandchild – he is doing a new, and more intimate, portrait of the people’s princess based on the sketches and photographs he took during the original sitting.

The 67-year-old, of Hornsey Lane, Highgate, now a world-renowned painter, still remembers the 28-year-old Diana as the “nicest, sweetest person”.

He said: “Many people ask me what she was like and I always thought that I could give a better answer in painting than in words. In quite a short time, I saw so many sides of her personality from glamour to loneliness and isolation.

“These contradictions fascinated me and evoked a lot of empathy and closeness. I feel as if I owe it to her to do a portrait that she would really like and recognise her true self in.

“A picture speaks better than a thousand words but a painting speaks better than a thousand pictures.”

Mr Zohar was born an only child in Kazakhstan in 1945 and travelled with his Russian Holocaust refugee parents to Israel in 1949, where he started studying art at the age of 13.

In 1989, only two years after arriving in England, he put on his first UK show at a Mayfair gallery and was spotted by an officer from the 13th/18th Royal Hussars, who wanted a portrait of their colonel-in-chief to hang in their headquarters.

“I imagined an old gentleman with a white moustache,” said Mr Zohar. “I had no idea it was Diana. It was a fluke of history.”

He worked day and night on the portrait for two months in 1990 during sittings at Kensington Palace and at his then studio in South Kensington.

Diana wore the midnight blue Victor Edelstein gown first seen when she danced with John Travolta at the White House in 1985. The dress was auctioned for £510,000 in 2011.

Now Mr Zohar wants to paint a very different portrait. Apart from the fact that it will be larger and will feature a standing Diana, he will allow it to take on its own form.

He said: “For many years, I felt that if I had known then what I know now – the tragedy of her life, the way it unfolded – I would have done a very different portrait.”

But Mr Zohar insists it is pure coincidence that he is working on the painting as William and Kate expect their first baby.

“Diana would probably have been very happy,” he said. “But also unhappy to be a grandmother so early!”

Share this article

0 comments

   Local advertisers

More news

Click here to read the Digital Edition of the Ham&High on screen
Use our Wedding site to help you plan your big day!
At WeddingSite we know how much you have to organise for your wedding day, that's why we have designed a set of FREE, simple-to-use tools to make the planning process easy & hassle-free. FIND OUT MORE
Find a date using our online dating and friend finder
You can meet new friends, find romance or simply meet up online with people sharing similar interests and hobbies. FIND OUT MORE
Find a local business using our online directory search
Need a plumber? Or a florist? Or anything else? Search our business directory to find Hampstead businesses in just a few seconds. FIND OUT MORE
Family notices from the Ham&High, with readers' tributes
In memoriam, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, best wishes & special days. FIND OUT MORE