05/16/2012

Diamond Jubilee: Exhibit shows the faces of the Queen over 60 years

An exhibit opening tomorrow in London’s National Portrait Gallery brings together photos and artwork of Queen Elizabeth over the 60 years of her reign.

While many of the photos are typical in that they show only the narrow range of expressions that we expect from the Queen, there are a few exceptions. Writing in the UK edition of the Huffington Post, Sam Parker concludes:

In an age of relentless self-exposure, Queen Elizabeth II remains the same mystery she was half a century ago. This exhibition, in small bursts, allows us to glimpse a little of the person behind the crown. God knows, we're going to enough of glossy picture books in the weeks to come.

Here's a look at some of the images on display:

This is the famous coronation portrait shot by Cecil Beaton in 1953. The Victoria and Albert Museum website has a profile of Beaton, who shot many famous photos of Queen Elizabeth. Here is an exceprt:

'The telephone rang. 'This is the lady-in-waiting speaking. The Queen wants to know if you will photograph her tomorrow afternoon' ... In choosing me to take her photographs, the Queen made a daring innovation. It is inconceivable that her predecessor would have summoned me - my work was still considered revolutionary and unconventional.'
- Cecil Beaton's diary, July 1939

The opportunity to photograph Queen Elizabeth, Queen Consort of King George VI, was the high point of Beaton's career to date. Published two months after the outbreak of the Second World War, his images presented a sense of continuity with a magnificent pre-war Britain. Several wartime sittings of the Queen and her family would reinforce his vision of a seemingly unshakable monarchy and witness the transformation of her daughter Princess Elizabeth from girl to young woman.

This photo was shot in 1971 by Thomas Patrick John Anson.

An entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica describes a little about Anson:

British photographer who was admired for his iconic images of London in the “swinging 1960s” and for his royal portraits, notably the official photographs of the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. As a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, Patrick Lichfield (as he preferred to be called) had access to all levels of society, and his pictorial subjects ranged from rock musicians and other artists to socialites and politicians.

this photo, also by Thomas Patrick John Anson, Princess Diana talks to a young member of her wedding party on July 29, 1981 as the Queen looks on.

In this photo, the Queen looks in shock as a fire rages in Windsor Castle on November, 1992. A story on the BBC website described the scene:

The Queen and the Duke of York have been helping to rescue priceless works from the royal residence, as 200 firefighters attempt to fight the flames.

One of the world's greatest collections of art is threatened by the flames and the Queen and the Duke of York have been helping to rescue priceless works from the royal residence.

The fire started at 1100 GMT in a private chapel on the first floor of the north-east wing and has caused damage which will cost millions to repair.

The fire brigade has not yet established how it started, but police have said they do not suspect arson.

Queen-warholStefan Wermuth/Reuters
A woman stands next to silkscreen prints of Britain's Queen Elizabeth by Andy Warhol during a press view at the National Portrait Gallery in London May 16, 2012.

This is part of Andy Warhol's Reigning Queens 1985 work. Here's a description from the Tate museum's website:

[T]he original portfolio of sixteen prints was made up of four images of each of the four female monarchs who were ruling in the world at the time of the portfolio’s publication: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland. Warhol also made paintings of each of these subjects. The works were based on official or media photographs of the monarchs. Queen Elizabeth’s portrait is made from a photograph taken in 1977 for her Silver Jubilee.

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