Jonathan Yeo

British artist Jonathan Yeo (b. London, 18 December 1970) is one of the world’s leading portrait artists. He has painted and worked with iconic and celebrated figures including actors Kevin Spacey, Dennis Hopper and model-turned-actor Cara Delevingne, artists Damien Hirst and Grayson Perry, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, peace activist Malala Yousafzai and has produced official commissions of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.

His 2013 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London was acclaimed by the critics and public alike, and was accompanied by a major monograph and a BBC1 Culture Show special. The exhibition then toured in 2014 to the Lowry in Salford and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. In Yeo’s twenty-five year career he has exhibited widely in Europe, North America and East Asia and in 2016 he collaborated with The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg, in Denmark, resulting in Yeo’s largest retrospective to date.

Yeo has emerged as one of the foremost pioneers of figurative painting in Britain.  His career as a painter has seen him confront a multitude of different narratives and themes. Content ranges from how we consume and discuss imagery, the modern day obsession of social media, actor’s in character, the pervasiveness of pornography, cosmetic surgery and societal portraiture. The appropriate personality to use as subject is decisive and Yeo uses them as a vehicle to explore the study of physiognomy, whilst simultaneously tackling often complex narratives and ongoing themes.

Yeo’s knowledge of art history is evident in the chronology of his painting. His early subjects were painted with stylistic imitation of the Vorticist period, this however was conveyance only, as the subjects were used to both explore art history and the genre of portraiture. Like British painters before him, Yeo’s work embodies the traditional skill set of observation, execution and technique, and in the same way as the School of London did Yeo also became aware of the importance of addressing contemporary concerns and portraying this information through the process of paint.

Jonathan Yeo’s ongoing innovations in theme and narrative and his engagement with society continue to challenge the genre of portraiture and reinvigorate it for the modern era.

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