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A Painting Fit For The Queen: Royal Central talks to Michael Hanrahan

Although the name may not seem familiar at first, this Irish artist certainly has a fascinating story to tell.

Michael Hanrahan, who lives in Lahinch and has a studio and gallery in Ennistymon, is the only living Irish artist with work in the Royal Collection.

His claim to fame came after being given media accreditation to access the historical Irish State Visits; firstly of Her Majesty The Queen to Ireland in 2011 and then that of Irish president, Michael D. Higgins, to the UK in 2014.

Michael with the 3 paintings of the Irish State Visit. The centre painting (Horse-Drawn Carriage Procession at Windsor) was selected by The Queen to be part of the Royal Collection. Image Credit: Michael Hanrahan

Michael with his 3 paintings of the Irish State Visit.
The centre painting (Horse-Drawn Carriage Procession at Windsor) was selected by The Queen to be part of the Royal Collection. Image Credit: M Hanrahan

In 1974, Hanrahan moved to Bristol, England as part of his banking career before spending two years in London as a Banking Development Manager for AIB. After 37 years in the banking industry, Michael returned to Ireland in 1989. Taking early retirement, he took up his passion for painting.

Four years ago, he began work as an Art Lecturer with Cunard Line, teaching painting to guests aboard their fleet. The cruise line, which operates the most famous ocean liners in the world; Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, has taken Michael across the globe and opened art and painting to a “whole new audience.”

Michael generously agreed to speak to Royal Central and I got the opportunity to speak with him about the work of art.

Michael, how did you come to gain your accreditation for the first Irish State Visit?

“Well, at the time, I was on the Queen Mary 2 when I heard that the Queen was coming to Ireland and I knew that this was going to be big. So, I wrote to the British Ambassador and Buckingham Palace telling them that I would love to capture the visit. When the media accreditations were granted and finalised, there were over 1200 journalists for the visit and only one artist; I was that artist.”

After capturing the scenes from the Queen’s State Visit to Ireland in 2011, he created 10 paintings; one of which, ‘The Queen and the Irish President at the Garden of Remembrance”, was selected by the Queen for inclusion in the Royal Collection.

Did anything else come, after you’d painted the pictures for The Queen?

“Apart from the publicity, I was actually approached by the White House and asked to paint Barack Obama, which I did. Afterwards I received a personal letter from the President and First Lady, Michelle, to thank me which was lovely.”

When the news that the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, would make a State Visit to the UK in the spring of 2013, Michael made a special trip back to London in April last year to follow the visit. He went on to create three paintings from the historic occasion and wrote to The Queen to offer one as a gift.

Michael, could you tell us what happened with the paintings from the Irish President’s visit?

“The Queen gave me permission to paint scenes from the state visit in April and, after I photographed them when I finished and sent them to her, I received a letter from the Queen’s Deputy Private Secretary advising that she had selected the horse-drawn carriage painting so I am delighted to be returning to Buckingham Palace with the painting that the Queen has chosen.” “

The letter from Buckingham Palace, penned by The Queen’s Deputy Private Secretary, Edward Young reads:

“Dear Mr. Hanrahan,

Thank you for your two letters of the 13th June and for enclosing photographs of your paintings of the State Visit of the President of Ireland to the United Kingdom which took place this Spring.

It was thoughtful of you, in your second letter, to offer to give one of these paintings to The Queen as a gift. I will therefore ask my colleague, Christopher Sandamas, to be in touch with you to arrange this delivery. Perhaps you would consider sending the painting of the horse-drawn carriage procession. 

Yours Sincerely,

Edward Young

The Deputy Private Secretary to The Queen”

Now, 6 months after the Irish State Visit took place, Michael made the delivery to Buckingham Palace on the 6th October 2014 and I spoke to him at the North Gate, just before he entered the Palace to present the painting.

A Painting Fit For The Queen: Michael Hanrahan (L) and friend, Tom O'Brien (R), with the painting chosen by The Queen, "Horse-Drawn Carriage Procession at Windsor"

A Painting Fit For The Queen: Michael Hanrahan (L) and friend, Tom O’Brien (R), with the painting chosen by The Queen, “Horse-Drawn Carriage Procession at Windsor”

Michael, who arrived at the Palace with his friend Tom O’Brien, said he was “thrilled” with the painting and was delighted it was going into the Royal Collection. Before delivering the painting, Michael said that the work shows “a very significant historical moment between Ireland and England.”

Another friend, Joey Loveridge, congratulated Hanrahan on his commission and said that he was “very proud of what he’s [Hanrahan] achieved.” Loveridge is the owner of Michael’s State Banquet painting (pictured above).

Hanrahan’s friend, Tom O’Brien, shows off the painting’s postage delivery envelope.

The handover party were received by The Queen’s Chief Clerk, Christopher Sandamas, as Her Majesty is yet to return to London from Balmoral Castle. The formal handover took place in the Chinese Dining Room at Buckingham Palace. The handover party consisted of: Michael Hanrahan, Artist; Tom O’Brien, Property Developer; Tom Hanrahan, Engineer with Taylor Woodrow and Michael’s nephew.

Alongside his paintings in the Royal Collection and White House, Michael also has works hanging in the Kennedy Library in Boston, USA and has recently been appointed as Artist in Residence at US billionaire, Donald Trump’s new luxury golf in Doonberg, Co Clare. Michael has already painted a number of works in this capacity and unveiled some to international residents and visitors from the 24th to the 26th September 2014.

Royal Central would like to thank Michael for his time, information and generous offer of images for our interview.

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