She was well-known for being the owner in trust of one of the largest art collections in existence. But Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 96, also served as a physical and figurative flag carrier for several organisations supporting the arts.
During her reign, Queen Elizabeth acted as an inspiration for many artists, including Pop-artist Andy Warhol. He honours the Queen through his ‘Reigning Queens’ series and silk-screening technique. The American artist includes 16 vibrant prints of the four reigning Queens at the time of the project, including Queen Elizabeth II of England, in this portfolio. The Queen’s photograph, which was taken in 1977 for her Silver Jubilee, served as Warhol’s inspiration.
Many other artists spanning a range of genre’s also contributed their own renditions of the Queen, from her Coronation up until her passing, including Christian Furr, who remains the youngest artist to have painted a portrait of the Elizabeth II, as well as Chris Levine, who creates art using light.
The typical formal painted portrait of the leading Monarch was mainly replaced by photography during her rule. Elizabeth’s youth and attractiveness were highlighted in the 1952 accession photos by social photographer Dorothy Wilding, who also had some prints hand-coloured. Cecil Beaton, a fashion photographer who also served as the unofficial court photographer for the 1953 Coronation, went even further. He developed a storybook aesthetic by using theatrical settings and selective editing.
Later in her life, British photographers such as Antony Armstrong-Jones attempted to capture naturalism and informality, seeing the Queen act in more domestic circumstances.
Across the nation, Museums closed their doors to pay tribute to the Queen’s life, including her contribution to the arts and cultural efforts, which includes her own personal collection. Some of contemporary the artist’s included have spoken about her fondness for the arts, particularly as it pertains to her main passion: Horses. Jeremy Houghton, quoted as being one of Her Majesty’s favourite artists, said: “The fact that I was painting her passion meant that she was always interested in what I was doing. Had she not been Queen, I think she would have spent her life dedicated to the breeding of horses.”
It’s easy to see why Queen Elizabeth chose the artist’s she did to best represent her. She focused on the intimacy of naturalism as well as the intimacy of her life rather than the flashy portraits of previous Kings and Queens. Her appreciation and support of the arts will forever be remembered, as well as her other incredible achievements throughout her 70-year reign as Monarch.