JOHN Wonnacott is one of the finest portrait artists of his generation. 

He’s painted the Queen and members of the Royal family, former prime minister John Major and has exhibited at some of the most celebrated galleries in the UK. 

Now, Mr Wonnacott, based in Chalkwell, has turned his attention to his hometown for a special exhibition at the Focal Point Gallery in Southend. 

The painter, 79, who was made a CBE in 2000, said: “Southend’s always been in my blood, my grandparents used to live around the corner.

“We used to come here from London most weekends.”

The exhibition includes paintings of the estuary, Hadleigh Castle and some of the beaches in Southend.

Mr Wonnacott boasts a distinguished career and has had his work included in shows in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, in London.

He also produced an oil canvas of the Royal family in 2000, which includes the Queen, the Queen mother, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Prince William and a young Prince Harry.

He added: “Painting is so absorbing, I wouldn’t want to do anything else and you can’t help painting the estuary, the sky changes every hour. I fell in love with the estuary. It’s astonishingly beautiful.

“I’m so excited by grand paintings of Southend and other nearby landmarks.”
On his time in Southend, Mr Wonnacott added: “I’ve tried to keep a low profile, painting is easier when you’re anonymous. It’s a shame schools don’t teach as much about paintings as I would like.”

His work is on show at the Focal Point Gallery, at the Forum, Southend.