Jonathan Yeo



British artist Jonathan Yeo


Jonathan Yeo (b. London, 18 December 1970) is one of the world’s leading figurative artists. He has painted and worked with iconic and celebrated figures including actors Kevin Spacey, Dennis Hopper, supermodel and actor Cara Delevingne, artists Damien Hirst and Grayson Perry, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, peace activist Malala Yousafzai and has produced official commissions of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall His work has been exhibited widely in museums and galleries around the world and has been the subject of several major mid-career retrospectives in the UK and internationally. 

Entirely self-taught, Jonathan rose to prominence as a figurative painter by the age of thirty following several major official commissions, such as that of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at a time when painting generally, and portraiture in particular, had fallen out of fashion.  His collage of George Bush in 2007, however, earned his reputation as someone known for both traditional and experimental portraiture. Along with his Collage Series, Yeo has explored more conceptual themes in his series of paintings looking at cosmetic surgery and increasingly his portraits are addressing wider concepts and themes within the paintings’ narrative. 



His 2013 first mid-career retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery in London was acclaimed by the critics and public alike, and was accompanied by a major monograph and a BBC1 Culture Show special. The exhibition then toured in 2014 to the Lowry in Salford and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. In 2016 he collaborated with Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, where he unveiled a portrait of Kevin Spacey in his role as President Underwood, from the Netflix series House of Cards. Later that year he had his largest retrospective to date at The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg, in Denmark.

Yeo has emerged as one of the foremost pioneers of figurative painting in Britain.  His career as a painter has seen him confront a multitude of different narratives and themes. Content ranges from how we consume and discuss imagery, the modern day obsession of social media, actor’s in character, the pervasiveness of pornography, cosmetic surgery and societal portraiture. The appropriate personality to use as subject is decisive and Yeo uses them as a vehicle to explore the study of physiognomy, whilst simultaneously tackling often complex narratives and ongoing themes. Mette Skougaard, Director, Museum of National History, Denmark, said Yeo is “a pivotal force in the revitalisation of figurative art in general and in the art of portraiture in particular. “