press release

Portrait of the Artist: An Exhibition from the Royal Collection
28.10.2017 - 04.02.2018

Portrait of the Artist: An Exhibition from the Royal Collection presents a remarkable group of works of art highlighting both the enormous richness of the Royal Collection and the complex and deep relationship that the British monarchy has had with artists for the last three and half centuries.

Beginning with King Charles I, one of Europe’s greatest art collectors, succeeding British monarchs employed and collected the work of artists, both British and European. The growing respect for artists as creators led to the collecting of artist’s self-portraits and images of artists both at work and playing roles. The exhibition, curated by Anna Reynolds, Lucy Peter and Martin Clayton, includes more than eighty paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and sculpture ranging from an exquisite Florentine 15th century drawing from the circle of Benozzo Gozzoli, A young man drawing and a sleeping dog, c.1460-80, to David Hockney’s, Self-Portrait, 6 April 2012, 2012. It is divided into four sections – Portraits of Artists, The Artist at Work, Playing a Role and Life and Legacy. The first section includes images of Peter Paul Rubens, Isaac Oliver, Annibale Carracci, Joshua Reynolds and Lucian Freud among others. The second has a remarkable self-portrait of Sir Edwin Landseer, The Connoisseurs: Portrait of the Artist with Two Dogs, 1865 and Thomas Rowlandson’s satirical, The Chamber of Genius, c. 1805-10. The third section includes one of the most important Italian paintings of the seventeen century, Artemisia Gentileschi’s iconic, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura), c.1638-39, an image of Rembrandt van Rijn in costume and a remarkable sculpture by the great actress, Sarah Bernhardt, A Self-Portrait as a Chimera, 1880. The final section includes works by Johann Wittmer, Raphael’s First Sketch of the ‘Madonna della Sedia,’ 1853, and Giovanni Castiglione’s, The Genius of Castiglione, 1648. Through these sections the exhibition traces the evolving role and importance of artists within the larger culture.

The Royal Collection is one of most important and richest collections of art in the world. Built over centuries by successive British monarchs, including the greatest collectors, Charles I and George IV, and continued today by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the collection includes a remarkable range of objects and works of art. Central to the history of the monarchy has been the role of art, both to define the image of the monarch and to confirm their power, wealth and taste.

Since the Renaissance, artists have claimed an increasingly central role in visual culture and emerged as individual and identifiable entities. The Royal Collection includes a large group of images of artists – self-portraits, portraits – and images of artists both at work and playing a role.

The exhibition, which is exclusive to Vancouver is presented by kind permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and helps mark the sesquicentennial of Canada. The coordinating curator is Ian Thom, Senior Curator – Historical.