Lucian Freud’s Queen Elizabeth II, Part 1

Unlike major artists before him Lucian Freud was not commissioned to paint the portrait of his monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. He had to ask. Nevertheless the Queen agreed and over a 19-month period in 2000 and 2001 Britain's monarch sat for Britain's painter. I give him that title because, if there were such a position as painter laureate, it would be Freud's. The end-result of their many sessions was, from the Queen's point-of-view, not a happy one. The portrait he gave her was both small and unflattering; many suggesting that it looked nothing like the Queen. Britain's press went wild. 

What Freud did, of course, as regular users of this site will recognize, was paint the Queen as his alter ego, giving her his eyebrows, his small eyes, his deep facial folds and, most oddly, his brick-like chin. Painted, of course, in his characteristic style, the Queen is Freud. Other masters, from Fouquet in the 15th century onwards, have done likewise. Royalty in almost all spiritual traditions is a symbol of purity that artists use as they see fit. Freud here, like his predecessors, has depicted his monarch as the monarch in his mind. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

L: Freud, Detail of Queen Elizabeth II (2000-01) Oil on canvas. Royal Collection, Windsor.
R: Freud, Detail of Self-Portrait, Self-Reflection (2002)

Click image to enlarge.

Although the self-portrait here was painted a year later, there are others that include similar features. The reason I use it, though, is to demonstrate that "face fusion" and its associated methods work both ways. Freud has given his own hair the shape and color of the principal cross in the Queen's jeweled crown (see diagram at right) and, perhaps, borrowed some of her facial features too. 

Click next thumbnail to continue

 

Captions for image(s) above:

L: Detail of Queen Elizabeth II (2000-01)
R: Diagram of detail of Self-Portrait, Self-Reflection (2002)

Click image to enlarge.

Every portrait by a great master like Freud is in some way a portrait of the artist; to see it, you just have to know how to look.

Click here to read Part 2 of Freud's Queen Elizabeth II (2002).

 

Captions for image(s) above:

L: Freud, Detail of Queen Elizabeth II (2000-01)
R: Freud, Detail of Self-Portrait, Self-Reflection (2002)

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 22 Jul 2011. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.