RA Magazine Autumn 2013
Issue Number: 120
'Gifted: From the Royal Academy to the Queen' at The Queen's Gallery
Royal Academicians presented The Queen, the Academy’s patron, with a gift of their own works on paper to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Giles Waterfield reports on the RA’s unique links with the Crown, as the works go on display
When the Royal Academy was founded in 1768, George III could afford to offer – besides the prestige of royal support – financial underwriting only for a short period. But he took a keen interest in the Academy’s affairs, and the links between the Crown and the RA have remained strong to this day. The present Queen has received periodic gifts from the Academicians of their works of art – for the coronation in 1953, the Silver Jubilee in 1977 and again in 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.
This autumn an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery displays their latest gift of 105 works on paper in a variety of media, each chosen by the individual artists. Some are newly created pieces, some are representative of older works. All are to be housed in the Print Room at Windsor Castle.
Frank Bowling RA, 'Revisiting Night Journey', 2012. © Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013.
Jane Roberts, former Royal Librarian and Curator of the Print Room, explained how the Royal Collection has never aimed to be a museum collection and has different priorities in developing its holdings. In terms of contemporary works on paper it commissions high quality artistic records, from portraits of members of the Order of Merit to Alexander Creswell’s watercolours of fire damage to Windsor Castle and the subsequent restoration in the 1990s. The Royal Collection also houses numerous gifts made to The Queen by heads of state and other official visitors.
David Hockney RA, '2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee', 2012. © David Hockney. For Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection, ‘Each of the three successive gifts from the Royal Academy to The Queen has been a remarkable snapshot of modern British art, and the Diamond Jubilee portfolio has transformed the Royal Collection’s holdings in this area.’ He is impressed by the quality and variety of the latest selection: ‘The range of media, techniques, styles and subject matter is breathtaking – there is no sense that the Academicians were playing safe in their choice of works for the monarch.’
Some of the artists have chosen or created works with a particular royal association. John Maine RA has given a recent drawing of Westminster Abbey Sacrarium, where coronations have taken place since the 13th century. Maine was closely involved in the recent conservation of the Cosmati Pavement, which had been hidden from view but which can now be seen in the sacrarium. Fellow sculptor Bryan Kneale RA, a passionate Manxman, has contributed an inkjet print of the symbol of the island, The Legs of Man (2003), to reflect The Queen’s role as Lord of Man. Tracey Emin
RA has created a symbolic image of The Queen entitled HM Royal Britannia (2012). Always interested in new media, David Hockney RA has given a print of an iPad drawing, which is his personal celebration of the Diamond Jubilee.
Chris Orr RA, 'From Cleopatra’s Point of View', 2004. © Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013.
Some Academicians have chosen Britain’s capital as their theme. Chris Orr RA explains how his hand-coloured etching, From Cleopatra’s Point of View (2004), ‘takes an imaginary bird’s-eye point of view of London from above Cleopatra’s Needle, on the Embankment’, in a panorama showing crowds of pedestrians, cricket at The Oval and The Queen waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Anne Desmet RA has chosen a print from her 2011 ‘Olympic Metamorphoses’ series studying the development of the Olympic site near her home in Hackney. Desmet says the series reflects her interest in ‘transformation linked to architectural evolution, degeneration and regeneration’.
By no means all the subject matter is British. A characteristically evocative lithograph by Bernard Dunstan RA presents a view of Venice. And Humphrey Ocean RA’s gouache from 2012, Birds at Ngong, is inspired by visits to his sister, a nun in Kenya, and includes a red-billed firefinch and a white-browed sparrow weaver.
Leonard Manasseh RA, 'Daylight', 2012. © Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013. The RA’s gift reflects the diverse styles and interests of today’s Academicians. Tony Bevan RA has presented a recent self-portrait, Olwyn Bowey RA a charcoal and watercolour drawing of a West Sussex pony, Susie (2007), a work she hoped would appeal to The Queen’s interest in horses. Abstract compositions form an important group, whether geometrical works – as in sculptor John Carter RA’s Stepped Forms (2012) – or painterly – as in Frank Bowling RA’s Revisiting Night Journey (2012).
Contributions from the architect members are also strong. They include a wide range of media, from photographs (such as Spencer de Grey RA’s The Sage Gateshead, the Tyneside performing arts centre which he designed) to mixed-media works such as Zaha Hadid RA’s representation of her design for the Olympic Aquatics Centre. Leonard Manasseh RA has created an exuberant ink painting, Daylight (2012), and David Chipperfield RA has given a print of a section
of his design for the Neues Museum in Berlin.
This is a spirited and highly enjoyable collection, a vivid record of artistic life in Britain in the early 21st century. Martin Clayton is confident that this unique gift in its silk-covered solander boxes ‘will take a worthy place in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle alongside the Leonardos, Michelangelos and Holbeins.’
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