Contemporary Artists Paint The Queen

The Queen at 85 How Contemporary Artists Depict The Monarch

Happy 85th Birthday ‘Ma’am’. The Queen celebrates her 85th birthday today just ahead of the Royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Do we care? Not really! However, portraits of the Queen, I have a lot of time for. Here is a selection of portraits of Her Majesty by some well known contemporary artists. They portray the monarch in a very different light from some of the ‘official line’ portraits commissioned in the past. Lucian Freud caused an outcry of controversy when he portrayed the Queen as a stroke victim. It was called “a travesty” by the UK’s leading tabloid. “It makes her look like one of the royal corgis who has suffered a stroke” says Robin Simon, editor of the British Art Journal, while Guardian art critic Adrian Searle hailed it as “probably the best royal portrait of any royal anywhere for at least 150 years.”The painting was also described as “thought-provoking and psychologically penetrating” by the head of the National Portrait Gallery, Charles Saumarez-Smith. We think it would have been a far more interesting composition if she had been painted in the same pose as Sue Tilley the benefits supervisor or Leigh Bowery letting it all hang out. Another great opportunity missed!

Alternative depictions of the Monarch are usually a better example of the zeitgeist of current Royal portraiture than the artists selected by the palace to represent the Queen in paint. Artist Jamie Reid summed up the Queen’s 25th Jubilee in 1977 with his design for the Sex Pistols single God Save The Queen and Bob and Roberta Smith has his own take on the Monarch depicting her as a self-portrait. The worst example of the kind of Schlock Horror paintings of the Queen was Isobel Peachey’s official portrait of the monarch for Cunnard’s QE3. This is typical of the the acres of canvas devoted to the cult of the Royal Court.

Paint Your Own Chocolate Box Competition  (send all entries on jpg saved at 480 X 640 px to

ArtLyst would like to encourage all of our artists to create their own portrait and submit it to our “Queen Chocolate Box Competition”.The best entries will receive a space on our homepage displaying the work plus a box of British made Chocolates.
2nd Prize is a Union Jack Flag and a space to stand in the Mall in front of the ICA on the day of the Royal Wedding.

Photo: L to R
1) Jamie Reid classic from 1977
2) David Shrigley  “Oh How I Love Her”
3)Bob and Roberta Smith Self-Queen
4) Andy Warhol Elizabeth II
5) George Condo Elizabeth II
6) Lucian Freud


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