Italian painter Pietro Annigoni, best known for his portraits of the British royal family and American presidents, died in a Florence hospital Friday, doctors announced Saturday. He was 78.
Born in Milan but a resident of Florence since the age of 15, Annigoni achieved international fame with a portrait of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II done in 1955.
Later he painted the Queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and her sister Princess Margaret, as well as portraits of former Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy. He also painted the late Shah of Iran and his Queen Farah and the late Pope John XXIII.
Although painting portraits of the famous made Annigoni Italy’s richest contemporary painter, his principal enthusiasm was for creating frescoes in Florentine churches.
“I don’t do portraits now except for curiosity, to see if I can catch the soul of my subject,” Annigoni told an interviewer in his later life. “And for the money, of course.”
One of Annigoni’s favorite stories was about when he painted the portrait of the late U.S. Gen. Mark Clark when the 5th Army commander reached Florence in 1944.
He said that when Clark saw the finished painting, he exclaimed: “I’ll have you know I never lost a battle"--and walked out.
“I don’t know if he thought the tired, hard lines round his mouth and eyes, which reflected his weariness after the campaign, made him look a beaten man, but he never returned,” Annigoni said.