In The Queen’s silkscreen, Warhol – as usual – played with the idea of a celebrity, analyzing the relationship between subject matter and public persona. This image is based on an official photo portrait of her taken in 1975, just before her 49th birthday. The tiara-wearing queen is blue-eyed, regal and handsome, but outlined and abstracted with blocks of color.
Dorothy Wilding’s 1952 photograph of Queen Elizabeth was exhibited as part of The Queen: Portraits of a Monach exhibition at Windsor Castle in 2012. credit: Steve Parsons/PA Image via Getty Images
As British historian David Cannadine once noted, the Queen was “perhaps the most visually depicted and represented individual to have existed throughout human history”. Since it reigned, we can only guess about the number of images.
Pietro Annigoni’s “Queen Elizabeth II” was commissioned by the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery in 1969. credit: Oliscarf/Getty Images
Later British photographers – especially Antony Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon, former brother-in-law of the Queen. And her cousin, Patrick Litchfield, Earl of Litchfield, pursued informality and naturalism, getting to know her a little better in the process. I was able to catch a glimpse of at housework, play and work. Television crews began to be given unusual access to documentaries.
Social photographer Cecil Beaton took this photo of Queen Elizabeth and her ladies-in-waiting on her coronation day in 1953. This photo captures many of the late monarch’s most significant occasions. credit: Print Collector/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
But it may have been the press and their telephoto lenses that truly revolutionized our perception of the Queen. They provided some of the more off-guard, more intimate walkabout moments, from the shock of the 1992 Windsor Castle fire to the 1997 tribute to Princess Diana displayed outside the gates of Buckingham Palace. I was able to solemnly and quietly examine the wreaths and see her weeping at her sister’s funeral in 2002. She seemed more human and sympathetic.
Observers take a closer look at Gerhard Richter’s 1967 Queen painting. credit: Rune Hellestad/Corbis via Getty Images
Similar to the German artist’s practice, his image was faintly blurred, exaggerating colors and her features. The Queen looks unreal, if not unreal. She’s still recognizable, but somehow she’s eerily not who she is. She looks uncomfortable, as if suppressing her strained laughter. It is unclear why Richter painted her this way. he never explained.
The sitting took place over many months from May 2000 to December 2001. The Queen was 74 years old. As a result, she was painted in heavy impasto, small (only 9 by 6 inches), and predictably controversial. Freud’s pictorial forensic eye did not flinch.
Lucien Freud’s paintings of the queen seemed like the antithesis of earlier depictions of romantic queens. credit: Shion Toohig/Getty Images
Freud required her to wear a crown, as seen in some of Wilding’s photographs, which is worn at a slight angle. She is pensive, a little depressed and maybe a little tired. She has seen and experienced many things. The painting, as many newspapers noted, was an unflattering contrast to Annigoni’s dreamy 1950s portraits of her. Freud donated this painting to the Royal Collection. The Queen has never publicly commented on it.
Was it Prince Philip’s taste? Probably not. As an amateur painter, he knew exactly what he liked. His private collection includes a painting of the Queen on horseback at the Trooping the Color ceremony. It was painted by his friend, British Post-Impressionist artist and royal favorite Edward Seago. Dressed in her Grenadier Guard uniform (white feathered hat and red coat), the Queen looked simply and recognizably stunning.
Above: An Andy Warhol print of Queen Elizabeth being adjusted by Bonhams Auctions employees.