Feature Jubilee Spotlight

Championed by The Wick
The Wick - Lucian Freud, Queen Elizabeth II, 2001
Above  Lucian Freud, Queen Elizabeth II, 2001
The Wick - Cecil Beaton, Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation Day, 1953
Above  Cecil Beaton, Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation Day, 1953
01 June 2022
01 June 2022
In celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this weekend, The Wick spotlights seven artists who have gloriously (or not!) captured the British monarch across her 70-year reign.
Andy Warhol, Queen Elizabeth II, from his Reigning Queens series
Andy Warhol made his name immortalising celebrities, from Marilyn Monroe to Elvis Presley, in electric blues, greens and yellows. One woman, however, remained rather elusive: Queen Elizabeth II. But he didn’t give up. In 1982, his European dealer George Mulder wrote to the monarch’s private secretary, Sir William Heseltine, requesting permission to use the Queen’s portrait in a set of four screenprints. Surprisingly, the response from the Palace was positive.

So, in 1985, Warhol set to work on his Reigning Queen series, his largest and most ambitious portfolio of screenprints. The series comprises four prints of each of the four ruling queens at that time: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Two editions were made: the ‘Standard Edition’ and the ‘Royal Edition’, which incorporates ‘diamond dust’. In 2012, the Royal Collection Trust purchased four prints of Queen Elizabeth II from the Royal Edition to mark Her Majesty’s 60 years on the throne.

Chris Levine, Lightness of Being, 2004
Few images of the Queen are as mesmerising as this one. Taken during Chris Levine’s hologram portrait shoot of Her Majesty in 2004, it shows the Queen with her eyes closed.
‘The camera that shot the sequence of stereo images took a while to reset itself after each pass,’ said Levine. ‘Meanwhile the Queen was brightly lit, and I suggested to Ma’am she might rest between shots.’

It was during these moments of rest that Levine captured this remarkable portrait. The sense of tranquillity that pervades the portrait stems from the artist’s interest in meditation. ‘I was very conscious of her breathing in order to capture a sense of calm in the work.’

Cecil Beaton, Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation Day, 1953
In this official photograph, taken by Cecil Beaton on the day of the Queen’s coronation at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, Her Majesty is shown sitting on a throne, holding the Sovereign’s orb and sceptre, and wearing the Imperial State Crown, an embroidered and beaded dress designed by the couturier Norman Hartnell, and a crimson velvet mantle edged with ermine fur. Beaton intended this splendid portrait to offer a dose of glitz, glamour and hope in what was still a rather gloomy post-war Britain.

Lucian Freud, Queen Elizabeth II, 2001
No portrait of the Queen has divided opinion quite as much as this one. The Times’s art critic, Richard Cork, called it ‘painful, brave, honest, stoical and, above all, clear sighted’, while The Sun’s Royal Photographer, Arthur Edwards, declared that ‘Freud should be locked in the Tower for this’.

This small, expressive portrait of the Queen, measuring approximately nine and a half by six inches, was painted by Lucian Freud in the picture conservation studio at St James’s Palace between May 2000 and December 2001. Rather unusually, it depicts only the Queen’s head and shoulders — and, of course, the glittering Diamond Diadem crown that he specifically requested she wear. Freud later donated it to the Royal Collection Trust.

Dorothy Wilding, The Queen, 1952
On 26 February 1952, just twenty days after the Queen’s ascension to the throne, society photographer Dorothy Wilding was granted the first official photographic sitting with the new sovereign. She was tasked with producing portraits to use as the basis for the Queen’s image on new coins, banknotes and stamps.

Wilding took 59 images in total, which show the Queen wearing a variety of gowns designed by Norman Hartnell, and jewellery including the Diamond Diadem and the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara. This summer, 24 of Wilding’s portraits will go on display as part of the 2022 Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace.

George Condo, Dreams and Nightmares of the Queen, 2006
This George Condo portrait outraged Britons when it was first shown at Tate Modern in 2006, with Brendan Kelly of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters describing it as ‘embarrassingly bad’. Nicknamed ‘The Cabbage Patch Queen’ for its uncanny resemblance to the 1980s children’s toy, it is of one nine humorous portraits Condo produced of the British monarch for his Dreams and Nightmares series.

‘It is a nightmare picture of herself in her own head,’ Condo has said of the controversial series. ‘It is an improvisation of her own nightmare.’ But, it seems, Her Majesty got off lightly. ‘What I had originally intended to do was a stunning nude that would be in the style of the Velazquez Rokeby Venus.’

Damien Hirst, Beautiful Portrait, 2014
Damien Hirst’s 2014 tondo of the Queen, now in the Government Art Collection (GAC), was made in the artist’s signature spin technique. One of few portraits by Hirst, it depicts the Queen in three quarter view, wearing the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara.
Hirst reportedly donated the work to the GAC in 2015, after officials approached his studio looking to purchase a second work for the collection, and later realised they couldn’t afford it. As the portrait went straight from Hirst’s studio to the GAC, it has yet to be exhibited in public.

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