Richard StoneRichard Stone has painted portraits of the Royal Family for nearly three decades. At the age of 22 he became Britain's youngest royal portrait artist since Sir Thomas Lawrence painted Queen Charlotte in 1790 at the age of 21. Although he has had little formal art training, Richard Stone's success is a direct result of a natural talent and a strong determination to succeed in the career he has pursued since childhood.

Born in 1951 the son of a Colchester postman, Mr Stone began cultivating his talent following an accident at the age of four that left him with a fractured skull and permanent deafness in his right ear. The young artist began sketching in a notebook and later painted to communicate with his family and teachers, demonstrating a keen sense of perspective and mixing colours.

From the age of eight, he was actively encouraged by his next door neighbour, Frederick Heron. An amateur Essex painter, Heron taught Richard the basics of art. Then when he was fourteen, Richard went to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, where he saw a portrait by Sir Gerald Kelly. With the directness that has subsequently characterised his career, he wrote to Sir Gerald, saying how much he had admired the portrait and asking if he could possibly help and advise him. The result was prompt. Sir Gerald could offer him all the reasons against being a portrait painter, but if he would like to call and see him, and bring his work, he was welcome. Richard took along what work he had done, listened to Sir Gerald's reasons, and would not be dissuaded. It was the start of a friendship that was to last until Sir Gerald's death in 1972.

Sir Gerald had been an ideal tutor. With his help and advice Richard set about becoming a portrait painter. The achievements are formidable. Following Sir Gerald's advice, he started knocking on doors in an attempt to find work, and he was successful. One of his earliest subjects was Sir Arthur Bliss, the Master of the Queen's Musick. As well as Sir Adrian Boult, another contact Richard made was at Clarence House, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother's London residence. When he was put through to the Comptroller of the Household, Lord Adam Gordon, he made his mark with a memorable phrase, "Don't ring off, I could be the latter-day Rembrandt." This singular lack of modesty paid off, and Lord Adam listened to his reasons for wanting to paint the Queen Mother. After accepting a commission to produce a likeness of Lady Adam Gordon, Richard was invited to paint the Queen Mother's portrait. The finished work was greeted with tremendous critical acclaim, but many were sceptical that the young artist could sustain a successful career.

Defying the critics, Richard saw this as the first step that would lead to the achievement of his childhood ambition. Unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in 1992, his portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II is his most famous work. Commissioned by the burghers of Colchester, the eight foot by five foot canvas hangs today in the town's Moot Hall, and represents three years work and some seven sittings. The portrait has been hailed as one of the finest painted during Her Majesty's reign.

Currently, Richard is putting the finishing touches to his latest Royal portraits of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, and H.R.H. The Duke of York. However, much of his time is occupied painting the companion piece to William Frith's 1863 masterpiece, of The Prince of Wales's Wedding. In June 1999, Richard was commissioned by Their Royal Highnesses The Earl and Countess of Wessex, to paint a ten foot by seven foot canvas to record their wedding and all the principle guests. The finished work is expected to hang at Buckingham Palace.

During the past twelve years, alongside the Royal commissions, Baroness Thatcher has given Richard five sittings, and he has visited the opera diva Dame Joan Sutherland in Switzerland to paint her portrait for presentation to the people of Australia. Prints of Lady Thatcher's portrait have since raised considerable sums for the British Forces Foundation and the painting of Dame Joan now hangs in the National Gallery, Canberra, Australia. Recently, Richard was in Cape Town, South Africa painting an official portrait of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Richard Stone is married and has a son and two daughters. He lives in Colchester where he maintains a studio.

In 1985 Richard was honoured with the Freedom of the City of London and recognition from abroad includes honours from the State of Texas, USA and it's capital, Austin.