By Hans Holbein - bwFsEOEPkei3Lw at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13359000
Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts has just opened a new exhibition featuring portraits from as recent as Princes William and Harry to as far back as the Tudors.
The 150 images span over five centuries as was created in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery in London which lent a number of portraits that have never been seen in the United States.
The exhibition’s co-curator David Bomford, who also acts as chair of the Department of Conservation at the UK’s National Gallery, spoke to CNN about the importance of the show: “The monarchs are the history of the country, and what they achieved — or what they failed to achieve — is the story of the nation,” he said.
Adding on: “(The exhibition is) about character and personality, and what these monarchs were like as human beings. We’re trying to cover the personal, the political and the historical.”
The exhibition starts with the Tudors, including pieces by Hans Holbein the Younger of Henry VIII and Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger’s depiction of Elizabeth I.
“Before that, royal portraits were not realistic, they were just generic depictions of majesty.
“But with the Tudors we begin to get accurate portraits — actual likenesses of real people.”
On Elizabeth I, Bomford said: “She never married a person — she married the country. And so she’s depicted in white clothing because she’s the bride of her nation. There’s a huge amount of propaganda going on.”
From the Tudors to the royals we love today, the collection includes Andy Warhol’s famous creation of Queen Elizabeth II.
The show takes a turn from artists impressions to photographs as photography became more commonly used.
“The family of Queen Victoria and (her husband) Prince Albert was the first royal family that was recorded in photographs, and Albert encouraged the taking of informal photographs,” Bomford commented.
“But he wanted to show that they were just like any other family in the country, a sort of middle class concept of a family, and he deliberately manipulated the photographs — or what they recorded — to give this impression.”
Other well-known pieces include Terence Donovan’s photograph of Diana, Princess of Wales and Annie Leibovitz’s capture of Queen Elizabeth.
You can see Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits from Holbein to Warhol at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, until 27 January 2019.