Sunday, 2 April 2017

Royal Collection Artists' Portraits

The exhibition Portrait of the Artist at the Queen's Gallery Buckingham Palace  runs until 17 April, but of course all the items are from the Royal Collection and should not vanish from the website after that.  Carefully and cleverly curated by Anna Reynolds and Lucy Peter,  the selection reveals how rich a resource the nation's monarch has, in paintings, drawings, miniatures, prints and ceramics, the diversity of medium and genre allowing a whole history of depictions of artists to emerge, from the Renaissance of da Vinci and Durer to the present of Freud and Hockney.  Not ignoring the current consort, in a pair of works showing Prince Philip's depiction of artist Edward Seago aboard the royal yacht, alongside Seago's reciprocal painting of Philip on deck working at his own folding easel.

Famously, the collection includes Artemisia's self-portrait as and in the act of painting,  a great piece of advertising from the seventeen century.

Other female artists appear in various ways, as in copies after Angelica Kaufmann, Rosalba Carriera and Vigee le Brun.

Plus the very striking and seldom seen self-portrait by Italian-born Emma Gaggiotti Richards, purchased by Queen Victoria as a birthday present for Albert in 1853.  The Queens Gallery's explication:
Richards depicts herself with the attributes of her profession: a palette, a mahlstick, and a selection of brushes. She is dressed in black, a colour not solely associated with mourning, but also favoured by working women. Although by this date it had become acceptable for men to fashion themselves as dishevelled Bohemians in their self-portraits, Richards, as a female artist and therefore on the periphery of artistic acceptability, firmly sets herself within the historic, and therefore safe, tradition of self-portraiture established  by artists during the Renaissance. Her solemn, intense expression and twisted, three-quarter length pose bring to mind the great self-portraitists of the past and thereby associate her with a long and illustrious line of serious and learned artists
Lastly, two curiosities, of which I was quite ignorant.  One is a self-portrait in stitches or needle-painting by Mary Knowles, done for Queen Charlotte in the 1770s. 
Knowles had previously stitched a portrait of George III for Charlotte, and here showed herself working on that piece, in her own self-advertisement.  
It doesn't photograph very well, being glazed, and embroidered pictures are an acquired taste, but it's nice to see such an example.

Something similar can be said of the bronze self-portrait as bat aka inkwell sculpted by Sarah Bernhardt.  Being in a display case, and bronze being so difficult to photograph without special lighting, the Royal Collection cast is accompanied here by that from the MFA Boston, which shows what a strange piece it is.