The coronation of King Charles is just around the corner. Inspired by this historically significant moment, we have brought together royal portraits with artworks by influential British artists, to form a collection of artworks that focuses on Great Britain. We reflect on the myriad ways artists have depicted the Royal family as well as iconic British artists, musicians, and culture, celebrating Britain's cultural and artistic diversity.
The coronation is a historically significant affair, guaranteed to be an occasion of spectacle and pageantry. Whilst opinions on the British royal family are complex and varied, the monarchy’s incredibly long and rich history and its rituals and traditions fascinate many. They are seen as a symbol of national unity that some people feel connected and loyal to and have subsequently been depicted by many artists. King Charles’ predecessor, Queen Elizabeth II, became a symbol of continuity in her 70-year-long reign and was represented in art at different ages and in different styles.
Chris Levine’s Lightness of Being - Freedom Edition, 2021, shows Queen Elizabeth in a moment of rest during an official portrait sitting. The intimate and informal nature of Levine’s photograph goes against the formal imagery we are used to seeing of the Royal family, leading the National Portrait Gallery to proclaim that the image is the “most evocative royal image by any artist.” The Queen gave Levine permission for the unplanned photograph to be published and it has since become one of the most famous and iconic images of the royal family and their heritage.
In Elizabeth 2, William Blanchard moves away from reality, creating a stylised image of Queen Elizabeth that incorporates a Pop Art aesthetic. With the application of fluorescent acrylic paint on the Queen’s hair and eyes, Blanchard highlights the spectacle of the royal family.
God Save the Queen Test Print by Jamie Reid
English artist and anarchist Jamie Reid explores political issues in his art and creates a contrasting vision of the Queen that exposes his feelings toward the Royal family. In God Save the Queen made for the Sex Pistols album artwork, Reid defaced Cecil Beaton’s Silver Jubilee portrait of Queen Elizabeth, resulting in a scandalous and controversial image that perfectly suited and encapsulated the band’s aesthetic and message.
British art has a rich and diverse history. Many influential artists and movements have emerged from Britain, with one such notable collection of artists being the YBA’s, who changed the landscape of British art in the 1990s. The Young British Artist group was made up of rule-breaking and innovative artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, who championed art beyond paintings, inserting installations, film, and photography into the gallery. British art continues to thrive and evolve today, with new artists and styles emerging all the time and creating waves in the global art scene.
PURE EVIL - VIEW COLLECTION
Pure Evil is a key artist in the London Street scene. He currently lives and works in London, UK after spending ten years in California, USA. Pure Evil’s art varies from graffiti and making his mark on the streets, to the Nightmare paintings of icons crying blood which he sells from his gallery in Shoreditch. We love the way he portrays popular figures in the media in new ways, as seen in his Nightmare paintings which show icons in a vulnerable and gothic light, bleeding tears.
PETER BLAKE - VIEW COLLECTION
Sir Peter Blake is a contemporary artist living and working in London. Known and celebrated for his association with the Pop Art movement and his creation of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, Peter Blake's art encompasses painting, sculpture, collages and graphic art. During Blake’s long career, he has exhibited extensively and has explored various styles and subjects, focusing primarily on themes of idolatry and stardom.
DAMIEN HIRST - VIEW COLLECTION
Damien Hirst is a British artist based between London, Gloucestershire and Devon. Since gaining recognition as one of the Young British Artists (YBAs) in the late 1980s, Damien Hirst art has consisted of installations, sculptures, paintings and drawings dealing with death, science, beauty and life. Hirst studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College and has pursued a risk-taking approach to making art that has resulted in numerous headlines and record-breaking prices.
TRACEY EMIN - VIEW COLLECTION
Tracey Emin lives and works in East London and Margate, UK. She came to prominence as one of the “Young British Artists” and is known for her autobiographical and confessionary artwork. Tracey Emin’s art varies in medium, encompassing drawing, painting, sculptures, film, photography, neon text, and sewn appliqué. Emin’s raw emotions are evident throughout her artworks, and yet she somehow straddles both intimacy and universality in her art.
Check out our Best of British collection for even more fantastic artworks by British artists and of British subjects.