Annigoni portrait of Queen Elizabeth added to exhibit
LONDON – One of the greatest royal portraits of the 20th century, Pietro Annigoni’s 1954-5 painting of the queen is to go on public display for the first time in 26 years at the National Portrait’s Gallery’s “The Queen: Art and Image” exhibition, it was announced Wednesday.
It will be shown on the same wall as the artist’s second celebrated full-length portrait of the queen commissioned by the gallery in 1969, the first time these portraits will ever have been seen together for over a quarter of a century and only the second time ever.
Since it was first shown at the Royal Academy in 1955, the painting has only been loaned twice, in 1958 and 1986, by its owners The Fishmongers’ Co. from Fishmongers Hall, where the painting occupies a prominent position. This refined painting in tempera, oil and ink on paper on canvas, reflects the artist’s fascination with Italian renaissance techniques. When shown at the Royal Academy, it drew crowds said to be 10-deep with viewers fascinated by the portrait’s idealized yet penetrating character.
This addition to the gallery’s touring exhibition, opening in London on Thursday ahead of the queen’s diamond jubilee weekend celebrations, will be displayed alongside some of the most remarkable and resonant images of Elizabeth II across 60 years of her reign, including those by Lucian Freud, Gilbert and George, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz and Lord Snowdon.
Annigoni’s grand, full-length painting Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Regent, shows the recently crowned, 28-year-old Elizabeth wearing her magnificent Garter robes, and depicted against a pastoral landscape. The painting was prompted by an observation made by the queen while the artist was making a preparatory sketch in Buckingham Palace: “When I was a little child, it always delighted me to look out of the window and see the people and traffic going by.” The resulting work shows a monarch in a sylvan idyll yet outward looking and connected to her surroundings.
It is seen next to Annigoni’s life-size 1969 commission for the National Portrait Gallery depicting the monarch again in ceremonial robes but now standing against an ambiguous, spare and gloomy, plain background. While both portraits were greeted by enormous public and press interest, the later work adopted a radically different approach from the romantic view of the earlier portrait. Annigoni said: “I did not want to paint her as a film star, I saw her as a monarch, alone in the problems of her responsibility.”
Also exclusive to the London showing of the exhibition is a 1967 portrait of the queen by Gerhard Richter, widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest living painters, and never previously loaned from Museum Wiesbaden in Germany. It can be seen alongside one of the artist’s two 1966 lithographs of the queen.
Visitors to the National Portrait Gallery will also be able to see for the first time, the world’s first ever lenticular image of the queen, resulting from a holographic process that conveys an illusion of three-dimensional form, Equanimity, by artist Chris Levine and holographer Rob Munday was recently given to the gallery by the People of Jersey who originally commissioned the portrait.
“The Queen: Art and Image” is the most wide-ranging exhibition of images in different media devoted to a single royal sitter. Combining traditional portraits and controversial contemporary images with newspaper photographs, film footage, postage stamps and satirical material, the exhibition highlights important developments and events in the queen’s reign from her ambiguous relationship with the press, to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the advent of new technology.
“The Queen: Art and Image,” organized by the National Portrait Gallery, comes to London following a highly successful tour to Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff.
“The Queen is the most represented individual in history, but she remains an enigma. All we really have are images. This exhibition explores the creation of the queen’s public persona and the way such images reveals a world of changing ideas and values,” said Paul Moorhouse, curator of “The Queen: Art and Image,” and 20th-century curator at the National Portrait Gallery.
ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE