The Art Newspaper said Hambling was approached by Royal Academy President Philip King to submit the work, but academician Anthony Green objected to it violently and was supported in his disapproval by the Summer Show co-curator Allen Jones. Despite a strong endorsement by the show's other co-curator, artist David Hockney, the detractors prevailed, and the portrait was rejected.
Hambling is noted for her controversial artwork such as the 12-foot high scallop shell sculpture she designed for the Sussex seaside town of Aldeburgh commemorating composer Benjamin Britten and his association with the Aldeburgh music festival. She has said she painted Jackson to show his vulnerability as an entertainer whom she believes to be both innocent and victimized.
Jackson is currently waiting trial in California on nine charges involving child molestation and administering an intoxicating agent to a child.