Sir David Attenborough: New portrait by Jonathan Yeo unveiled

A new portrait of Sir David Attenborough has been unveiled, marking the veteran natural history broadcaster’s 40 years of fellowship to the Royal Society.

The oil painting is by Jonathan Yeo, who recently created the first official painted portrait of King Charles III since his coronation.

It shows Sir David seated against a green background, looking directly at the viewer with his hands clasped around his knee.

Sir David, who described Yeo as a “master”, said it was “extraordinary” to have his portrait included in the Royal Society’s collection.

The work was unveiled on the BBC’s The One Show on Tuesday evening.

“To spend so much of my life looking at the natural world and attempting to convey to others its amazing complexity, beauty and increasingly, its fragility, has been a great privilege,” Sir David said.

He added that his work has only been possible thanks to the natural history film makers and scientists who have shared their skills.

Yeo, who has also painted Sir Tony Blair and Malala Yousafzai, said it was “a huge honour” to be asked to paint Sir David’s portrait, calling him “a personal inspiration”.

“It has been a thrill as well as a privilege to spend so much time with someone whose wisdom is so deep and broad, and who is also such brilliant and entertaining company,” he said.

For the portrait of Charles, Yeo chose a striking red colour.

Last month, animal-rights protesters attacked the painting in a London art gallery, sticking posters on the glass covering. The painting itself was unharmed.

For Sir David, Yeo said he opted for an “ambiguous natural green background”, as if he “might be emerging from one of the many habitats he has captured on film during his career”.

Sir David was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1983 for his services to science as a pioneer of public engagement.

The Royal Society said the new portrait celebrates the role Sir David continues to play in educating audiences everywhere on climate change and biodiversity.

Its head of library and archives, Keith Moore, said the body was “thrilled” to have the portrait as part of their collections.

“The Royal Society has many pictures of great scientists,” he said, listing the likes of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Dorothy Hodgkin.

“But I’d defy you to find anyone who has touched as many people’s lives in explaining the ideas behind great science, and how they affect our world, as Sir David Attenborough. He’s one of a kind.”

The portrait will be on public display at the Royal Society from 2 July.

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