Portrait

Take a glimpse at the changing image of the creative genius through the eyes of the artists themselves

Words Helen Brown 

Looking back behind the camera, as it were, Portrait of the Artist at The Queen’s Gallery sheds light on our most highly regarded creators and artists from an unusual artist trajectory. In a collection of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs, the exhibition is the first from the Royal Collection to focus on images of the artists themselves, rather than the subjects they choose to capture. It includes portraits by, and of, some of the world’s greatest artists, including Rembrandt van Rijn, Sir Peter Paul Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci and Artemisia Gentileschi.

As you wander through The Queen’s Gallery, the pensive, arrogant and intimidating gazes of these artistic greats seem to follow your every move. Many are painted in a self-depreciating manner that is quite uncommon in the more familiar bulk of these artists’ work.  Amongst the self-portraits sit images of artists by their friends, relatives and pupils, including the most reliable surviving likeness of Leonardo da Vinci by his student, Francesco Melzi.

The acquisition of artists’ portraits by members of the royal family has continued into the 20th and 21st centuries and this is something that is highlighted, along with the role of monarchs in commissioning portraits of artists. Companionship is another point brought to attention, such as with the correlative portraits of The Duke of Edinburgh and Edward Seago who captured each other at their easels on board the HMY Britannia in 1956–7.                                                   

Stand out pieces were French academician Alphonse Legros depiction of himself in a bearded reimagining of Francesco Melzi’s drawing of Leonardo da Vinci and the self-portrait by David Hockney which was presented by the artist to Her Majesty The Queen on his appointment to the Order of Merit and created using the Brushes app on an iPad.

The Verdict

Portrait of the Artist is a cleverly co-ordinated exhibition with a novel focus. It provides an intriguing insight into some of the more unseen facets to the artists we think we know so well, as well as bringing attention to smaller, lesser known pieces that, in many cases, turned out to be the standout stars.

Open until: Monday, 17 Apr 2017

Tickets from £5.30

Buckingham Palace Road, SW1A 1AA; royalcollection.org.uk

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