Artwork of the month: December’s Artwork of the Month is Jonathan Yeo’s portrait of Paul Boateng MP.
In May 2002 Labour MP Paul Boateng became the UK's first black Cabinet Minister when he was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. To commemorate this historic event, the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art commissioned Jonathan Yeo to paint Paul Boateng’s portrait. The portrait is currently on display in ‘Jonathan Yeo Portraits’ at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle until 1 February 2015.
Paul Boateng was elected as the Member of Parliament for Brent South in 1987. In 1997 he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, and later served in the Home Office and the Treasury. He served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2002 until the 2005 general election, when he stood down from Parliament.
Shortly after standing down, Paul Boateng was appointed as High Commissioner to South Africa, a position he held until 2009. Lord Boateng was introduced to the House of Lords in July 2010 as Lord Boateng of Akyem and Wembley.
Jonathan Yeo is one of Britain’s leading portraitists. Entirely self-taught, his first major commission was a portrait of leading anti-apartheid figure Archbishop Trevor Huddleston in 1993. In 2001 the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art appointed Yeo to be the first Artist in Residence to the general election, for which he painted 'Proportional Representation'.
The Laing Art Gallery exhibition is a major new retrospective of Yeo’s work. Along with finished portraits it includes preparatory sketches to provide a comprehensive overview of Yeo’s artistic career spanning two decades. The loan of the Paul Boateng portrait was approved by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art and all costs are being met by the Laing Art Gallery.
When not on loan the portrait hangs in Portcullis House as part of the House of Commons contemporary portrait collection, this includes a portrait of Diane Abbott, Britain's first ever black female MP, commissioned at the same time as the Boateng portrait.
Image: 'Paul Boateng MP', oil on canvas by Jonathan Yeo, 2003 (WOA 6483)