It was a commission for Paul McCartney’s Kintyre hideaway that led to the Beatles’ most memorable album cover.
Now Sir Peter Blake’s version of The Monarch Of The Glen, made in the Swinging Sixties, could go on display alongside the 19th-century original if the latter is secured for the nation.
National Galleries of Scotland chiefs have revealed the idea after pop artist Blake, who painted his take on the masterpiece for McCartney’s dining room, recorded a message backing a £4 million fundraising drive to buy Sir Edwin Landseer’s picture.
The National Galleries said it had four weeks to raise the final £750,000 to buy the painting from whisky giant Diageo, which had been poised to auction it off last November until it was asked to consider a “part-purchase, part-deal” gift.
It would have to borrow the Blake painting directly from the former Beatle. It has been hanging for years in his McCartney Productions offices in London.
The work was completed in 1966, shortly before the artist worked on the famous cover of the Beatles’ eighth album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album cover depicted dozens of famous figures, including Bob Dylan, Mae West, Edgar Allan Poe, and Marilyn Monroe.
Blake, who became known as the Godfather of British Pop Art, later worked on album covers with the likes of Paul Weller and The Who, and designed the sleeve for the Band Aid single Do They Know It’s Christmas?
He said: “I met Paul McCartney in 1963 and in 1964 he asked if he could buy or commission a painting from me. He had just got the Mull of Kintyre [property] and had bought a painting of Highland cattle in a stream.
“I said: ‘Let’s do a picture to match that and I’ll draw a nice stag for you.’ The best stag ever is the Landseer painting The Monarch Of The Glen. I did it in acrylic, which is incredibly stupid, because to get all that mistiness in a paint which dries very quickly is very difficult. It would’ve been much easier to do it in oil paint.”
Referring to the Landseer original, Blake said: “For many years, it was too beautiful, too corny and wasn’t considered to be a great picture, but it has grown to be one. It has earned its right to be a great picture. I very much hope it will stay in Scotland. It’s a national icon.”
Sir John Leighton, National Galleries director-general, said the Pop Art version of the painting had helped revive interest in the 1851 original.
“It’s really nice that the friendship and the artistic connection between Paul McCartney and Peter Blake goes through The Monarch Of The Glen,” he said. “It’s a really unlikely jump from The Monarch Of The Glen to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“I know Paul McCartney still has the painting. We’d like to be able to get it on loan. We weren’t able to do it in the time that we have at the moment, but we’d like to do that at some point in the future. It would be nice to put them on display together.”