Sir Jackie Stewart: Why I said no to Andy Warhol

AS THE Queen prepares to unveil a new portrait of Sir Jackie Stewart in Edinburgh on Monday, the motor-racing legend has revealed how both Lucian Freud and Andy Warhol wanted to paint him.

• Sir Jackie Stewart says turning down Andy Warhol for portrait was a “big mistake”

• Stewart also turned down Lucian Freud because “he only painted when the subject was in his studio”

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In an interview with today’s Scotsman Magazine, Sir Jackie said he twice met Freud, who died in July last year.

“We met first at a dinner party given by mutual friends, then we had lunch together at his favourite restaurant close to his West London studio to discuss the possibility of a portrait,” he said.

Dumbarton-born Sir Jackie, 73, knew that Freud, whose subjects ranged from fellow artist Francis Bacon to supermodel Kate Moss, had painted a huge portrait of Andrew Parker-Bowles, former husband of the Duchess of Cornwall. “But Andrew had to do 82 sittings for him, because Freud only painted when the subject was in his studio.

“So Freud was not for me, although he nearly painted me,” he said.

He revealed the biggest error he had made in life was turning down Andy Warhol’s request to paint him in 1972. He and wife Helen met the father of pop art at a New Year’s Eve party in the St Moritz chalet of Fiat president Gianni Agnelli and his wife Mariella. Other guests included shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos and Prince Amin Aga Khan.

Warhol told Sir Jackie he wanted to paint his portrait with a motor-racing backdrop.

“He told me he’d give me the painting as long as he held all the global poster and lithograph rights, but I’d have had to go to New York for a couple of weeks,” he said.

“I just didn’t have that amount of time. Big mistake. That painting would have been worth millions of dollars today.”

The new portrait was commissioned by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. It was painted by English artists Theo Platt and Michael Turner – who were chosen by Sir Jackie – and will be unveiled when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh officially open the refurbished Queen Street gallery.

The former Formula 1 world champion and his wife have been already painted in a triptych by Jack Vettriano.

But he said it had taken several years to find an artist to paint the Scottish National Portrait Gallery commission. “I saw many artists suggested by the gallery, but I already knew of Theo Platt’s work. I think he’s done a good likeness,” he said.

Platt, who has painted the Countess of Essex twice, has painted a youthful Stewart in racing overalls against a dramatic backdrop by aviation and motor-sport artist Turner, which includes four racing cars and the saltire, as well as other reminders of Sir Jackie’s sporting triumphs.