Kiwis appear to be split when it comes to their opinions of King Charles III’s first portrait since he ascended to the throne in 2022.

The eye-popping painting, by artist Jonathan Yeo, depicts the King with his hands clasped at the hilt of his sword and with a butterfly above his right shoulder. He wears a red Welsh Guards uniform and has a background of similar hues.

The painting has drawn mixed reactions online, with people either loving or hating the extensive use of red.

On the streets of Auckland today, those asked by 1News had similarly mixed reaction to the picture.

One woman described it as “memorable” but “very dramatic”.

Another said she was “overwhelmed by the red”.

One woman said she wasn’t expecting the colour, saying red was “quite evil” and “dominating”, and said it reminded her of atrocities committed during colonialism.

Another woman described it as “artistic” and liked it because it wasn’t a “traditional, stale portrait”.

1News spoke to artist Melissa Gilbert, who praised the work – and gave her take on what it could mean.

“Construction-wise, it’s really, really well done – It kind of hints back to the history of colonial paintings of the powerful and rich,” she said.

She said that while the image of the King himself was very traditional, the background was “more modern and abstract”.

“It looks more of a gestural kind of methodology of painting.”

She said this was achieved through “wild mark making” and said “it denotes a lot of emotion”.

Gilbert found the butterfly, which the King asked for to show his love of nature, “quite interesting” and believed it didn’t quite have the intended effect.

She said it felt like typing an “LOL” at the end of a “kind of mean text”.

To Gilbert, the painting evoked ideas of British colonialism and what it meant for indigenous people.

“It feels as though it’s realism… of the black and brown indigenous people who have suffered from the history of this family.

“I love it because it’s realistic.”

Animator and filmmaker Ross Ozarka described the artist’s choices as “interesting”.

But “I don’t see what the controversy about this is”.

“It looks pretty good,” he said. “It draws attention to the face.”

The portrait will be displayed at the Philip Mould Gallery in London from May 16 to June 14. From the end of August, it will be displayed at Drapers’ Hall.