The Queen Art & Image – The National Portrait Gallery

It’s the year of the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the nations really got into the spirit with street parties, festivals, exhibitions and a modern take on the traditional flotilla. In celebration of her 60 years as reigning monarch the national portrait gallery has collected an eclectic mix of pictures. I’ve always been a royalist, although they don’t seem to do very much and it’s debatable as to whether they contribute as much to the economy as they cost, its our heritage. They help to create a national identity and give us a link to key events which led to our country being the place it is today. So I wanted to see the exhibition for this reason, but also because she’s really the first royal we’ve had who’s lost control of her public image. Of course there have been satirical images in the press for centuries, poor libertine king Charles II was particularly easy prey, but he still had control over the portraits which were made of him.

The exhibition isn’t the largest, it trails through four small rooms on the ground floor of the gallery, however its inexpensive and crammed with images. Which includes intimate photographs, traditional painting, and more modern takes on the royal portrait. To be honest I really enjoyed it even from a non art perspective it’s just a fascinating insight into how age affects the body. I’ve read a few negative reviews for the exhibition, implying that these pieces don’t mean much when taken into context with each artists own collective works, but really I think they’ve missed the point. It’s the collection as a whole which makes it worth going to see, how so many artists interpreted the same model with such varied results.

Obviously one of the most startling images is Lucian Freud’s controversial 2001 portrait. I love freud, he was a real genius with oils, it’s as if he could paint someone’s innermost thoughts, he called it ‘a kind of truth-telling exercise’ . I’ll be the first to agree that this is certainly not the most flattering portrait, it looks like her dragged up twin brother, yet somehow it’s so captivating.

The exhibition runs until 12th October and in my opinion is well worth a visit.


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