The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch at Windsor Castle

This year marks Queen Elizabeth II 60th anniversary, and although last year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrated the Queen’s 60 years on the throne, the Jubilee referred to the date she ascended the throne – the 6th February 1952. It is this year however, on 2nd June 2013 that will commemorate the Queen’s coronation, which took place on 2nd June, 1953, at Westminster Abbey, and this is the date she officially took the role of Queen of England.


For those who are interested in the art, and more importantly, portraits of the Queen, there is an exhibition, curated by The Royal Collection Trust, that features some of her most iconic paintings, photographs and depictions, and it is showing at Windsor Castle from Friday, 23 November 2012 to Sunday, 09 June 2013.

Queen Elizabeth II is arguably one of the most depicted women in the world. She has sat to numerous artists, from Cecil Beaton and Pietro Annigoni to Lucian Freud. Her portrait likeness, so widely circulated, has also inspired artists such as Andy Warhol, whose screenprint portraits of Her Majesty have been recently acquired for the Royal Collection and are displayed for the first time at Windsor Castle.

Portraits of The Queen are made for a number of official purposes, ranging from photographs distributed at the time of a State Visit, to those that mark a particular anniversary. Portraits bearing a clear and recognisable image of the sovereign are required for use on coins, banknotes and stamps. Many of the works on display were created with one of these purposes in mind.

This exhibition presents a selection of official, commissioned and formal portraits of The Queen, gathered here from the different Royal residences. Here is a small selection from the exhibition:

Image © 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS)

8_7Dorothy Wilding (1893-1976) (photographer) 1952

The first official photographic sitting with the new Queen was granted to the society photographer Dorothy Wilding. It took place on 26 February 1952, just twenty days after the accession. A total of fifty-nine photographs were taken by Wilding, showing The Queen dressed in a variety of gowns designed by Norman Hartnell and wearing jewellery.

1_0Sir Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton (1904-80) (photographer) 1953

Princess Elizabeth succeeded as Sovereign on the death of King George VI on 6 February 1952 and planning for the coronation began soon after. The date of Tuesday 2 June 1953 was selected, and the subsequent decision to televise the ceremony allowed unprecedented numbers of people to see the new Sovereign being crowned. Beaton’s portrait shows The Queen wearing the Imperial State Crown and holding the sceptre and orb, against the backdrop of Westminster Abbey.

Image © 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Image © 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS)

Andy Warhol, Screenprints in colours with ‘diamond dust’, 1985

From the early 1960s, the American artist Andy Warhol (1928-87) used existing portraits as the basis for many of his prints and paintings. For his series of screen prints depicting Queen Elizabeth II, made in 1985 as part of his Reigning Queens portfolio, he turned to the official photograph released for the Silver Jubilee in 1977. This had been taken, at Windsor Castle on 2 April 1975 by the photographer Peter Grugeon (1918–80).

freudLucian Freud: HM Queen Elizabeth II: 2000–2001

Lucian Freud (1922-2011) compared the task of painting The Queen with that associated with a polar expedition. As an artist who was accustomed to painting his family and friends, he was acutely aware of the need to focus on the ‘inner likeness’ behind such a recognisable face. Freud attempted to make his task more manageable by using a small canvas only 20 cm high, as that would require fewer sittings. He also decided to depict only The Queen’s head and shoulders, rather than paint a full-length image. However, once work had commenced, Freud decided to add the Diamond Diadem, perhaps to make the figure more immediately recognisable.

Annie Leibovitz: HM Queen Elizabeth II, 28 March 2007

A series of four photographs were commissioned by the Royal Household from the American photographer Annie Leibovitz (b.1949) to mark The Queen’s State Visit to the United States of America in 2007. Three portraits from this series will be displayed as part of this exhibition.

This photograph shows Her Majesty in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace, wearing the mantle of the Order of the Garter.

annieFor more information or to book tickets, visit The Royal Collection here – royalcollection.org.uk.

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