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When Her Majesty sat for Dan…

Portrait painter from the Valleys is exhibiting 21 canvases of celebrities' homes, including those of Boy George, John Keats and William Blake

15 December, 2017

Dan Llywelyn Hall with Vicky Fox from London Doorstep charity

YOU could say Dan Llywelyn Hall knows a thing or two about celebrities – of one sort or another.

A few years ago he painted perhaps the biggest celebrity of them all – the Queen. Some of the press, sniffily, dismissed it as a Spitting Image puppet version of the Queen but as all publicity is good publicity his reputation wasn’t tarnished a bit.

This week he is off again – exhibiting 21 canvases most of which are linked to the celebrities of Hampstead, both past and present. Not their portraits but paintings of their homes – including those of Boy George, Harry Styles – and John Keats and William Blake.

Apart from being an insightful portraitist, Hall is also very down to earth.

“It’s a tough game,” he suddenly said, as we chatted in the basement gallery showing his works at 108 Heath Street, Hampstead, on Monday afternoon.

Mr Llywelyn Hall’s portrait of the Queen

And it is. It’s a crowded field and, as always, an artist only stands out if he or she has something special to say – and says it in a special way.

I was drawn by his haunting broad-brushed impressionistic portrayal of London Bridge entitled “The Angel” – a reference to a story he’d read in the press of a woman who had dived into the Thames to rescue a victim of the recent terror attack. The threatening sky, the scudding clouds, all a reminder of those dark days.

A boy from the Welsh Valleys, Dan, aged 37 – he grew up in Cardiff – gained the commission to paint the Queen through his connection with the Welsh Rugby Union whose patron is the Queen. She sat for him for several hours at the palace.

“She’s very good at talking and making you feel at ease,” he said. He couldn’t repeat what they talked about – silence is the price of those who meet royalty.

What sort of refreshments were there? “Really none,” he laughed. “Just water!” And that seemed to go for the Queen as well.

His next “celebrity” project has been arranged by a theatrical charity which has persuaded Mark Rylance, David Suchet and Sir Ian McKellen to sit for him at the Garrick Club next spring.

• The exhibition – Hampstead and Beyond – was held at the newly opened office of the construction firm BDCM, in Heath Street, Hampstead. 10 per cent of the proceeds from the sales of the pictures will go to Doorstep London, a homeless charity based in West Hampstead.

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