Royal Paintbox: Royal Artists Past and Present at Windsor

Queen Alexandra, Queen Victoria at Balmoral, 1884-6 courtesy Royal Collection Trust © 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

It doesn’t matter if your artistic style is more Mr Squiggle than Picasso; drawing is the single most accessible form of art available to all. It really only requires imagination to participate.

Drawing can enhance our cultural understanding, bring about harmony and inspire creativity within our community.

Educationalists around the world agree that drawing helps us to think, to invent and to express and communicate our ideas, regardless of age, ability or status in life.

What we do need is a medium to draw upon, anything from canvas to cardboard or a computer screen. You will also need a marker of some sort, be it a crayon or finger, to complete the task.

At Windsor Castle from 22 June 2013 until 24 January 2014, a unique exhibition Royal Paintbox: Royal Artists Past and Present will take place of works produced by members of the Royal household. They have it seems been encouraged to sketch and sculpt for a while now.

The show will chart the history of royal artists from the 17th century until today and will include works by George III and his children, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their children, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and by Her Majesty The Queen.

Also on display will be a group of watercolours by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who is Chairman of The Royal Collection Trust which is custodian of so many great artists works, least of all a wonderful collection of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, one of which inspired Princess Augusta in 1785 to emulate it.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine, The Great Executioner, 1658 courtesy Royal Collection Trust © 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Prince Charles also appears in a movie made to highlight the event, describing how his love of painting was inspired by his early years at Windsor Castle surrounded by great art. It is fitting then that the Castle’s Drawings Gallery provides the backdrop for this special exhibition dedicated to his family’s work.

There is a magnificent mezzotint entitled The Great Executioner (1658) completed by Charles 1’s nephew Prince Rupert. He introduced this new engraving technique to Great Britain at the time of the Restoration in 1660.

Charles I’s nephew, the military leader Prince Rupert of the Rhine, depicted the execution of St John the Baptist and its suggested that his subject matter may refer obliquely to the execution in 1649 of his uncle Charles I, who is buried in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

During the reign of Charles I’s son and successor Charles II, Prince Rupert was appointed Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle.

Ascending to the throne in 1760, George III was the most attractive of all the Hanoverian monarchs, a good family man (15 children) and devoted to his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, for whom he bought the Queen’s House, later enlarged to become Buckingham Palace.

King George III, Design for a Corinthian Temple at Kew, c.1759 courtesy Royal Collection Trust © 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

His drawings include a design for a Corinthian Temple at Kew and a view of Syon House from Kew Gardens and reveal that he liked classical order and harmony.

He encouraged all his children in the gentler arts and Queen Charlotte and her daughters became fine role models for other women by being heavily involved in the production of both arts and crafts.

At Frogmore Villa the Queen’s favourite retreat, the ladies painted delightful chinoiserie style lacquered panels on the walls.

Designed by architect James Wyatt in 1792-95, Frogmore was a model neoclassical villa, which all those with Regency style taste longed to own.

Princess Elizabeth, Flower piece with bird's nest, 1792 courtesy Royal Collection Trust © 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

It was set amongst beautiful gardens about a half a mile south of Windsor Castle.

The Queen and her daughters loved flowers and Dr. Robert Thornton wrote effusively. ‘There is not a plant in the garden at Kew…but has been drawn by her gracious Majesty, or some of the Princesses, with a grace and skill, which reflect on these personages the highest honour’.

Silhouettes and a large floral still life by their third daughter Princess Elizabeth are also included in the exhibition.

In 1768, George founded and paid the initial costs of the Royal Academy of Arts, he was the most cultured of monarchs and his royal collection of books, some 65,000 in fact, were given to the British Museum and became the nucleus of a national library.

Queen Victoria, The children at Osborne, 1850 courtesy Royal Collection Trust © 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

During the reign of Queen Victoria the teaching and practice of watercolour painting became widespread.

Professional artists, such as Richard Westall, George Hayter, Edward Lear and William Leighton Leitch, were all employed to teach the Queen and her family and a selection from her own sketchbooks will be on display.

Her husband Albert took an active interest in the arts, science, trade and industry; the project for which he is best remembered was the Great Exhibition of 1851, the profits from which helped to establish the South Kensington museums complex in London.

Some of these were made on holiday at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Queen Victoria made sure all her children had art lessons and arranged for her drawing master, William Leighton Leitch, to also teach Princess Alexandra of Denmark who married her son The Prince of Wales in 1862.

Prince Ernest Augustus, Windsor Town and Castle, 1780 courtesy Royal Collection Trust © 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The present Prince of Wales has enjoyed three decades recording his own observations and some 15 watercolours he has completed will be on display.

Developing a relationship with the imagery of the world in which we live is part of a life long learning process.

Art is a language in images a method by which we communicate ideas, express conceptions about self, our society, our culture and our community. It’s really the same for everyone, royal or otherwise.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2013

Royal Paintbox: Royal Artists Past and Present

Drawings Gallery
Windsor Castle

The exhibition Royal Paintbox: Royal Artists Past and Present is part of a visit to Windsor Castle.

Frogmore House is open to the public on 14, 15 and 16 May for the annual Charity Garden Open Days and on 17, 18 and 19 August 2013.

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