'Can you see what it is yet, Ma'am?' Rolf to paint the Queen

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The Independent Online

Rolf Harris, the Australian entertainer also known for his dubious talents with a wobble board and didgeridoo, has received the ultimate recognition of his artistic talents.

Rolf Harris, the Australian entertainer also known for his dubious talents with a wobble board and didgeridoo, has received the ultimate recognition of his artistic talents.

Harris, 75, has been commissioned to paint a portrait of the Queen to mark her 80th birthday next April, it was announced yesterday. It was, however, not revealed whether the eccentric Aussie will paint the portrait while humming, panting and whistling to himself as was his wont on his numerous television appearances.

The Queen, who has sat for more than 120 artists, including Lucien Freud, Pietro Annigoni and John Wonnacott, is according to a Buckingham Palace spokesman, "no doubt aware of his portfolio of TV work and therefore decided to give him permission". The spokesman also said that as with the other portraits, "the style, dress and backdrop is the artist's prerogative".

The sittings, which will take place this summer before the Queen goes to Balmoral for her traditional summer holiday, will be filmed for a BBC1 television special, Rolf on Art, to be screened on 21 April next year. While admitting that there were no Harrises in the Royal Collection, the spokesman said: "He is a well-known presenter with an excellent reputation for making art accessible."

Harris said: "I am overwhelmed and hope I don't get stage fright and panic. I am thrilled to bits hoping that I do a painting that is representational of the way the Queen looks and her obvious charm and friendly quality. I want to get the real person rather than the state image and I'd like to make my painting more impressionistic than photographic."

After attending the City & Guilds of London Art School during the Fifties, Harris became a staple of British entertainment television for decades, with hit singles in the Sixties including "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" and "Two Little Boys". More recently he had another hit with an idiosyncratic rendition of Led Zeppelin's classic rock anthem "Stairway to Heaven".

He has also hosted numerous television programmes on cartooning and art history as well as the long-running veterinary show Animal Hospital and another animal-related show Test Your Pet.

He has returned to paintings with renewed vigour recently with his paintings exhibited in the National Gallery and at the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy. In 2000 he received honorary membership of the Royal Society of British Artists.

A recent survey found that one in 14 people thought Harris was responsible for Monet's Water Lillies. Harris said his favourite portrait of the Queen was that by William Dargie, painted in 1954. He added: "I just hope I can do one as charming and representative of the lady as that."

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