I was already at the National Portrait Gallery to see the exhibition on Henry Stuart, so I thought I might as well stick around to visit the exhibition installed to celebrate Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Called The Queen: Art and Image, it explored images of the Queen throughout her sixty-year reign, starting with her arrival back on English soil after learning of the death of her father and her accession to the throne.
I thought the exhibition was very interesting from a cultural perspective as it showed how the Queen and the royal family were portrayed throughout the last half-century, reflecting the dramatic socio-cultural changes in British life. Earlier, formal paintings and photographs, such as the Coronation picture by Cecil Beaton, gradually gave way to more informal and radical images, including Andy Warhol’s colourful pop art images and the infamous Sex Pistols album cover. More recently, traditional yet modernised images such as the Queen relaxed and smiling sit alongside sculptured pictures such as the head of the Queen constructed of trinkets and an image of Elizabeth II made up of lots of little pictures of Princess Diana.
This sort of exhibition probably only has immediate appeal to royalists but I think it has a wider resonance too, reflecting changes in society as well as developments and fashions in the artistic world.