23 OCTOBER 1971, Page 22

Gilding the lilies

From Humphrey Brooke CVO Sir: Owing to chance I have only just seen Bryan Robertson's 'Keeping ahead with Portaiture.' I must certainly challenge his statement that Bryan Organ's painting of Princess Margaret for Lincoln's Inn is 'easily the finest Royal Portrait of recent years.' Perhaps he hasn't seen John Merton's similarly contrived portrait of the Duke of Kent (RA, 1971). This shows, down to the last receding hairs, infinitely more "precocious talent for drawing and getting a likeness."

Similarly, Mr Robertson may have missed the highly sensitive and revealing portraits of the Queen and of the late Princess Royal. Both were prominent Academy exhibits. The story about the Queen Mother and Stanley Spencer may be 'ben trovata,' but is essentially ' non vero ' Nor were his female portraits 'invariably nude.' One of his most famous, the Daphne Charlton in the Tate, even includes a conspicuous hat. The best portraits of Queen Elizabeth are among the many by Sir Gerald Kelly. His technique may have been 'photographic,' but so, too, Is Graham Sutherland's — and the latter rather than Spencer, who never used a camera, is a recent example of a painter accepting this particular commission and then backing out of it.

In my own view the best Royal portraits in recent times remain the various paintings and studies of the Queen as Princess Elizabeth, painted at Windsor during the war by Allan Gwynne-Jones.. Several of these have been exhibited at the Academy and elsewhere in London.

Humphrey Brooke Lime Kiln, Claydon, Suffolk