To celebrate The Queens Diamond Jubilee, the V&A
is holding an exhibition of portraits of Her Majesty by photographer Cecil Beaton (1904-1980). Presenting highlights of the V&As collection of Beatons royal photography, Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration will depict The Queen in her roles as princess, monarch and mother and include a number of photographs never before seen, as well as excerpts from Beatons diaries and letters.
Distinguished photographer, designer and avid diarist, Beatons royal portraits were among the most widely published photographs of the 20th century. The exhibition will explore Beatons long relationship with Queen Elizabeth II, who was a teenage princess when she first sat for Beaton in 1942. Over the next three decades, Beaton photographed The Queen on many significant occasions including her Coronation Day. The exhibition coincides with the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne, marking her Diamond Jubilee.
The exhibition will feature nearly 100 portraits, from wartime photographs of Princess Elizabeth with her family, to tender images of The Queen with her own young children and official portraits that convey the magnitude of her role as Britains monarch. It will show elegant and highly-staged photographs alongside informal moments of the Royal Family at home, interspersed with film and radio footage from the time.
Extracts from Beatons diaries and letters will reveal an insight into the working practice of a royal sitting, from the intense planning beforehand to conversations with The Queen and the pressures of achieving the perfect portrait. A selection of Beatons original contact prints, from which the Palace chose the images released to the media, will be on display for the first time with volumes of press cuttings. The exhibition will also demonstrate how Beaton controlled the use of his photographs, revealing the press embargo, cropping instructions and notes on the sitting scribed on the reverse of his extensively published image of The Queen and newborn Prince Andrew from March 1960.
The exhibition is arranged in five sections documenting important sittings and charting the shift in Beatons photographic style, from his early Rococo-inspired portraits to a starker approach in the 1960s. One section will showcase portraits of Beaton himself by his contemporaries including Curtis Moffat, Irving Penn and David Bailey.
A version of the exhibition will open in the McManus Gallery in Dundee in September 2011 and will tour around the UK to Leeds City Museum, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle.