A celebration of June Mendoza OBE RP ROI

June Mendoza, Commission
June Mendoza, Commission

June Mendoza OBE RP ROI (1924–2024)

Portrait painting is a fascinating, hard but hugely rewarding profession. You work with so many different people from every walk of life in so many different parts of the world.

As a child keen to draw, June’s ability to depict the human form was apparent from a very early age. Having painted her first portrait aged just thirteen, June was already on track for her strong career in portraiture.

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June went on to study at Saint Martin’s School of Art and then spent a few years as an actress on the West End. After marrying, June travelled a great deal with her husband and painted portraiture throughout. She has lived in Asia and Australia.

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Since then, June balanced a range of projects from commissions to her self-generated work. The latter are her ‘pickups’ – sitters whose faces she sees and pounces on to sit for her. In speaking of her sitters, June said:

There is a never-ending fascination in the intrinsic differences and similarities of the shapes, body language, and individual visual story of each subject, plus the excitements of composition and all the technical necessities.

Throughout her career, June has painted individuals from all walks of life and has an impressive list of notable sitters to her name, including HM Queen Elizabeth II, whom she painted five times. Her portraits are held internationally in public and private collections, including the National Portrait Gallery.

1987 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the Royal Greenjackets by June Mendoza RP jpg

"Princess Diana gave her bouquets. The baritone Sir Thomas Allen serenaded her with Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes. If asked about a portrait capturing the soul, she replied that she strove to find the spirit in a character but could not claim the soul."

The Times - COPYRIGHT 2024 © The Times
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June Mendoza was extraordinary. There are so many threads to pull together; her career as a society and royal portrait painter, her life as a comic book artist, her energy, her love of music, her patronage of Australian musicians, and so much more. To be smiling and painting when you're 99 years old has to be the testament of a glorious life.  She was beautiful and funny, sparkling and gifted.

Her family told me that she had a joyful day at the RP opening - for which we should all be grateful. – Anthony Connolly PRP


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