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Posts tagged ‘Elizabeth II’

The Queen: Art and Image – at the National Portrait Gallery

You can’t blame the National Portrait Gallery for cashing in on HRH Queen Elizabeth this year. Since her Diamond Jubilee celebrations at the beginning of this month, the popularity of the Queen has been at an all time high – in fact over  90% of those recently polled stated that they were satisfied with the Queen, figures which represent the significant surge of support which is now felt for the Royals in England. In the meantime, tourist numbers lingering outside Buckingham Palace, visiting Windsor Castle, and pouring into souvenir shops all over London have soared . So adding an exhibition of portraits of the Queen into the mix seems like an obvious choice, not least because, having been the subject of at least one official portrait in every of her reign, as well as the subject of numerous photographs and unofficial tributes, there are so many portraits to choose from!

Queen Elizabeth II (Cecil Beaton, 2 June 1953)

I therefore went along to the NPG’s exhibition, The Queen: Art & Image today expecting 60 official portraits lined up, each recognising a gradual change in the Queen’s image, from glamourous young Queen in her 20s, to the Nation’s favourite grandmother. However to my surprise, the exhibition was a little light on the official portraits. In fact it was a little light on paintings altogether, instead concentrating on the Queen’s image, as masterminded  by officials, and seen through the lens of the paparazzi, captured on camera. That is not to say that the exhibition was not historically narrative and collectively interesting.

Queen Elizabeth II (LIghtness of Being) © Chris Levine (2007)

Queen Elizabeth II (Equanimity) (© Chris Levine, 2007)

The show begins and ends with the masterful 3D works of Chris Levine, Lightness of Being and Equanimity. These have to be amongst my favourite portraits of the Queen. The way they are mastered – a print on a lightbox, multilayered so that the Queen’s posture changes as you move around the work, is startlingly realistic. It has never been so possible to feel as though you are meeting the Queen, when in reality such an opportunity is stored away in a box of other pipe dreams such as the big retirement mansion and everlasting fame. Every wrinkle is there to see, but unlike the horrendous portrait by Lucian Freud, also included in the show, the portrait is truthful and yet still utterly glamorous, not least Lightness of Being which captures the Queen, eyes briefly closed, in white ermine, white pearls, and her glittering crown. Even her hair glimmers with a silver sheen rather than dull grey.

Queen Elizabeth II (Dorothy Wilding, 1952)

From this impressive start, the exhibition heads back to the 1950s and thus begins a chronological exploration of the Queen’s changing image and public portrayal. I suppose thinking about it, a load of official portraits would have always been a little contrived, as artists seek to flatter and do deference in the employ of this almost supernaturally important sitter, while photographs capture the Queen as a real person, a loving mother, happy relaxed tourist and here, in the 1950s section, as a glamourous, almost Hollywood worthy young Monarch, with a perfect figure and natural celebrity smile.

It is from this point that we begin to see the Queen mature from glamorous young starlet into a rounded family woman, but one who had to bare the full weight of the royal responsibility of her solitary role, as many of the portraits demonstrate. Through the 60s and 70s, her posture becomes more official, and her stride seems more confident and self-assured. Still, moments of rare relaxation, such as the Queen laughing on the decks of her beloved Yacht Britannia are captured during this period, which was probably the last decade of uninhibited happiness before the traumas of the future descended upon her.

Queen Elizabeth II by Patrick Lichfield (1971)

Elizabeth I (this is not a typing error btw) by Gerhard Richter 1966

Queen and Prince Philip survey floral tributes after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales © Peter Nichols, 5 September 1997

Moving into the 1980s, you see the Queen fall into the shadow of Princess Diana, the attention of the public transferring to this more volatile of characters. In the meantime the Sex Pistols released a single, God Save the Queen, with controversial lyrics suggesting the Queen belonged to a “fascist regime” (the artwork for which is included in the exhibition), Gilbert and George betrayed the Queen and Prince Philip in the shape of the “cross potent” (a symbol of the Austrian Fascist party) and Andy Warhol hinted at the superficiality of the Queen in his series of lithographs of the Queen painted as part of his fixation on the cult of celebrity. Onto the 90s, when most of the Queen’s children’s marriages fell apart and her beloved Windsor Castle sustained severe fire damage. While who could have predicted the shock of the late 90s, when Princess Diana tragically died, and the Queen fell victim to a media hunt as the papers decried her failure to show her face in the immediate aftermath. The turbulence of the period is captured by the exhibition, and it is perhaps appropriate that Lucian Freud’s portrait, the ugliest of the them all, is hung at the end of this period.

Queen Elizabeth II, Andy Warhol (1985)

Queen Elizabeth II, Lucian Freud (2001)

Onto the new millennium, where things get good again. The popularity of the Queen surges, and the portraits of the Queen become more respectful, portraying the Queen as a genuine person, a consistent and beloved figurehead, and a cherished icon of not only the nation, but the world. Here hangs another of my favourites and one of the most recent portraits by Thomas Struth, commissioned especially for the Diamond Jubilee. The photograph, which features Prince Phillip and the Queen slightly off centre, sat relaxed on a green, rather elaborate sofa, is delightfully accessible, like a family portrait – you can see every vein, every wrinkle of both sitters, suggesting a warm, human aspect, which is always surprising in those who seem so inaccessible. I also love the portrait for demonstrating the bond between Phillip and the Queen, who sit fairly formally, but who are nevertheless the clear support of one another, forming a single union with a bond which is clear for all to see.

Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth II, Windsor Castle © Thomas Struth 2011

I loved too this portrait by Annie Leibovitz (2007) which, with its solitary and dramatic background, and with the Queen dressed in a cloak, references the paintings by Annigoni, and photographs by Cecil Beaton placed at the beginning of the show. And thus, as the exhibition ends, the portraits come full circle, as we see a Queen as much loved now, as then, a Queen who inspires in us all a deep sense of reverence and respect, and for we British, is someone of whom we can be resolutely proud.

Queen Elizabeth, Annie Leibovitz (2007)

The Queen: Art & Image is on at the National Portrait Gallery until 21 October 2012.

National pride in a Diamond Jubilee Spectacular

As the Diamond Jubilee weekend draws to an end, there is a unanimous consensus that London has never looked so good, nor love for the Royal Family reached such an all-time high. Today’s climax of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations brought with it all the spectacular pomp and ceremony for which Britain is famed around the globe, awe-inspiring parades of gold and red, plush uniforms, glittering livery, grandly dressed horses and the stunning uniformity of hundreds of cavalry riding with precision along union jack flapping and crowd-lined streets. At its centre, the Queen and the Royals were a delight to watch, humbled and stunned by the incredible show of public support, as they made their way back to Buckingham Palace which last night played host to an unbeatably brilliant star-stunned concert and fireworks spectacle, and which today brought the celebrations to a glorious climax with the Queen’s balcony appearance and Royal Air Force fly past.

Words alone cannot properly express the full glorious extent of the past weekend, when spirits have run so high, and all the British and millions from Commonwealth countries around the world have joined together in giving shared thanks to the Queen for 60 years in which she has sacrificed herself for the good, the stability and the strengthening of all her peoples. The party which has resulted shows that London knows how to celebrate, even when times are down, and as the Diamond Jubilee has awed across three days of brilliant spectacle, we can only now sit back and look forward in feverish anticipation towards the Olympic festivities which are still to come.

Norms fly the flag for the Diamond Jubilee procession (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Since words are insufficient to express the brilliance with which London erupted into Jubilee carnival this weekend, I have scanned the internet, collecting together a series of photos which show just how incredible London looked as millions celebrated this weekend. But before you take a look at those, cast your eye over this little sketch which I made as the celebrations progressed. For in Norm world, they too have celebrated the Diamond Jubilee, lining the streets, waving the flag, and celebrating 60 fantastic years of their Queen. Long may it continue!

Note: these photos (apart from my sketch above) are from the internet. Appropriate copyright for the images is shown where the source was indicated on the bottom of the photos. Where a source is not indicated, the copyright belongs to either the BBC or the Daily Mail websites. 

Diamond Jubilee Pageant: A Right Royal Wash-out

You have to feel for the Queen. Sixty years of rule and 86 years of age, and when the time finally came to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, she had to stand out in the cold and damp for some three hours, gritting her teeth and ensuring none of the thousands who came out to watch could view her displeasure. As usual, HRH Queen Elizabeth II has put everyone else before her now weather-beaten person.

After a week of almost Mediterranean heat, this weekend has once again seen London dip right back into the wintery monotony which has hung over it like a bad smell for the bulk of 2012, right at the very time when two and a half years of planning reach their peak, and the country goes into Diamond Jubilee celebration-mode with a four day diary packed almost exclusively with outdoor activities. You also have to feel for the thousands of people who were out waiting hours by the river today to see a glimpse of HRH upon the Royal Barge, and the thousand or so ships which made up London’s biggest River Pageant for some 400 years. Not only must they have freezed (I, sensibly, wasn’t one of them), but they’ve probably all caught the flu.

The broadcasters kept on telling us that the weather didn’t dampen Jubilee spirits, but come on, let’s get real here – half of the pageant could barely be seen through the mist which descended over London, covering up much of the newly-constructed Shard in its midsts (it is, after all, the tallest building in Western Europe, but more than usual of it’s lofty facade disappeared today) or because of the rain drops covering the lenses of TV cameras. Meanwhile the large finale of hellicopters and goodness knows what other treats had to be cancelled, while a group of poor sodden opera singers desperately carried on until the end, dripping from head to toe atop their boat like a group of stranded sailors, no doubt praying that they would avoid electrocution from all of the drenched microphones wired around their person.

That is not to say that the good old British spirit did not live on, making the most of a bad situation (every cloud has a silver lining and all that jazz) but just imagine how good it could have been if the clouds, which feel insuperably magnetised towards the UK soil, got lost, for once.

Norms at the Diamond Jubilee Pageant (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Here’s hoping for a bit of sun tomorrow, and that the Queen is suitably wrapped up with a hot water bottle tonight.

Diamond Jubilee Weekend: Let the street parties begin!

They’ve strung out the bunting and covered cup cakes and cookies and muffins in red, white and blue. The tables are being set up where cars normally dominate, huge, long white sheets become makeshift tablecloths on a street-long banqueting space, the dishes are assembled, each decorated with a token miniature union jack, and the cars are formally banished, as neighbours gather together for the event of the decade: the Diamond Jubilee Street party is here!

It’s a rather anachronistic tradition, but one which is all the more necessary now that neighbourhoods have become soulless and people who live side by side barely know each other’s names. Back in the middle of the 20th Century, when the street party was a more regular occurrence (notable street parties included celebrations at the close of the Second World War and the Queen’s Coronation itself, in 1953) street parties were probably more of a naturally organised occasion. Neighbours lived in one another’s front rooms, borrowing cups of sugar, nosing into each other’s gossip, and standing around on the street corners, having a chat. But as society has become gradually more transient, with people moving around for career changes, schooling changes, and moves abroad as part of the gradual trend towards globalisation, the idea of neighbourhood has been relegated to soap dramas on TV. In today’s age, with neighbourly relations at an all time low, and english reserve causing a general aptitude towards individual isolation, that the age of the street party is starting to catch on again, as people harp back to the old days, seeking a return to the days of neighbourhood values, when your street was a haven, a place where children played safely, and people felt the support not just of their closer relatives, but of the people living all around them.

The Norms’ Diamond Jubilee Street Party (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown) (Pen and pencil on paper)

What with the Golden Jubilee ten years ago, the Royal Wedding last year, and the Diamond Jubilee now upon us, the street party is on the up, and this weekend will see the union jack go into overdrive, not just in London, but all over the UK. Naturally, the Norms are not likely to miss out on the action, and here in Normville, the Norms have missed none of the Jubilee spirit, stringing out the bunting, decking the tables with cakes, and sandwiches, jellies and bottles of bubbly, as they fly the flag high in honour of a magnificent 60 year reign of our Queen, Elisabeth II. May the jubilee weekend begin!!

The coronation of HRH Queen Elizabeth II

A street party back in 1977 for the Silver Jubilee

London is filled to bursting point with bunting and union jacks

PS For the best jubilee cake ever known to man, check out the award winning cake made by my dearest friend Celia on her blog, Lady Aga.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.