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Artist Jonathan Yeo unveils portraits of 'perfect muse' Cara Delevingne

Published 18/03/2016

One of Jonathan Yeo's paintings of model Cara Delevingne (Jonathan Yeo/PA Wire)
One of Jonathan Yeo's paintings of model Cara Delevingne (Jonathan Yeo/PA Wire)

New portraits of model Cara Delevingne by British artist Jonathan Yeo have been unveiled ahead of the largest retrospective of his work.

Yeo said Delevingne proved the "perfect subject and muse" for his exploration of the creation and manipulation of identity through social media, even being captured in one portrait in the pouting process of taking a selfie.

The 23-year-old posed for Yeo six times over the last 15 months to help create the 12 portraits, nine of which will be on display alongside noted works from his 25-year career at The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle in Denmark.

Hailed a "chameleon" by the artist, Delevingne's expressions range from inquisitive to ethereal, and include an introspective shot which shows off her well-documented collection of tattoos.

Yeo has also turned his hand to a real politician for the exhibition, after releasing a portrait of Kevin Spacey as his House Of Cards character Frank Underwood at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington in February.

Taking a prominent position in the exhibition is the first official portrait of former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who became an internet sensation after taking a selfie with Barack Obama and David Cameron at the Nelson Mandela Memorial in 2013.

Yeo said: "Just a few years ago everyone thought the camera had killed painting, but we are starting to see it has actually saved it. Thanks to camera phones, and social media such as Instagram, we are all starting to think like painters.

"The way we manipulate and read self-portrait images, or 'selfies', in the last five years has far more in common with the activity of the 16th-century portrait artists and audiences than any art movement since the birth of photography.

"It's no longer just actors and politicians who are expected to deceive us with their appearance, but our circle of real and virtual friends too."

He said the idea of juxtaposing the historical portraits in the museum with Delevingne, who is "synonymous with altering her own identity and sharing these images on social media", is to show how we can "no longer trust digital photographs to be objective and impartial representations of who we all are".

The self-taught artist is famed for his portraits of cultural figures, which have previously included peace activist Malala Yousafzai, actors Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, politician Tony Blair and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Jonathan Yeo Portraits runs from March 20 to June 30 at Frederiksborg Castle, near Copenhagen.

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