You may or may not know the names of Allan Ramsey, John Michael Wright, Luke Fildes, Gerald Festus Kelly, and Andrew Festing, but you’ve at least heard of their famous subjects. These are just a few of the artists who painted the Monarchs of the United Kingdom. People such as George III, Charles II, Edward VII, George V, VI, and Queen Elizabeth II.
I mention these artists because I enjoyed the paintings they produced. I saw something in their artwork that interested me. One thing I noticed immediately was how much Charles II looked like Captain Hook. This led to me discovering the author of Peter Pan may have based at least the look of the captain partially on King Charles II. Which made the portrait even more interesting to me.
There are a number of royal portraits, some I really like, some I don’t care for, but as a whole, they are intriguing. Partially because it was an early form of marketing and domestic policy. You wanted the public to see the best version of yourself, even if it was well marketed. As a heavy man myself, the portrait of King Henry VIII comes to mind.
It’s still the way we think of many of the names of history. Edward VII’s portrait by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes is one of my favorites. Though blue is my favorite color, I think it’s the richness of the gold and red in the painting that make it stand out. Yet in the same artist’s painting of George V, it was the black and white that stood out even with the red and gold present.
The white and black feature prominently in another artist, Andrew Festing’s Platinum Jubilee painting of Queen Elizabeth II. It is among my favorite portrait’s of Queen Elizabeth II. I don’t know if the artist intentionally connected it with her grandfather’s portrait or not. I think it’s notable because the Queen called George V Grandpa England as a child.
Among Queen Elizabeth’s favorite portraits was the one of her late father painted by Ross Rossin in 2012. While I can’t say as to what she thought, I can see that it reflects in George VI what I admired about him. He did not seem to consider himself the best candidate for a king, but he strove to do his best as king. In many ways this made him not only a good king, but the one his country needed at the right time.
I like the fact that there are so many different types of royal portrait. I enjoy the flattering ones, and the more realistic as well. There is artistry, talent, nobility, and even bits of whimsy in them. For me art is only partially about the picture, it’s also about the story.
Just as in the life of every person, every painting is part of a story. Also as in life, every painting is about more than the person in the picture. Just as a painting is about the artist and the sitter, our lives are about relationships, with our Creator, our loved ones, our challenges, and our triumphs.
A monarch gets a say in what goes in their portrait. The portrait of a royal isn’t about one moment in time, but a lifetime. The same is true of our lives, will we live a life that makes a good painting, or one that needs some marketing?. The problem with fake marketing is it’s only a picture, but what we are, that’s the real portrait.