Wednesday, June 20, 2012

50 Portraits of the Queen

Poster outside the National Portrait Gallery
I don’t know what it was that made me want to go to the showing at the National Portrait Gallery of 50 Portraits of the Queen.

 I wanted to go when Wyona were here, but I was afraid the show would take more time than we had to give it that day.

Perhaps I wanted to go since the show has been travelling, and now is in a place where I can see it.

But more it was the advertized promise that the show would demonstrate how portraiture has changed over the years by looking at one subject: Elizabeth II.

There is no audio guide, so there is a certain amount of work to do when reading the text that goes alongside each portrait. Some of her early pictures are by her brother-in-law, Antony Armstrong-Jones. Andy Warhol is there with a set of four caricatures. Lucien Freud does a small portrait of her as an older woman. I stayed longest at the large portrait of Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. Her hands are twisted with arthritis, her ankles thickened, her hair still in the style so familiar to us since it is the only one she has ever worn.

I liked seeing the Queen as an older person, willing to have a picture presented that is not airbrushed.

Will Self gave the show a scathing review in the Guardian.

I can tell I am no art critic, for I kind of enjoyed the retrospective on a queenly life.


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