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How Victoria and Albert celebrated their reign through watercolour painting

a watercolour drawing of a display with Indian elephant armour

The Great Exhibition: India No.4 c.1851 by Joseph Nash (1809-78). Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

An exhibition charting Victoria and Albert’s love of chronicling their reign through watercolours makes its royal progress to Newcastle this summer

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had an enthusiasm for watercolour paintings and formed a collection of thousands of pieces during their time together. It is said they often spent blissful evenings together organising their acquisitions into albums.

Today this very personal collection reveals how the former Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha were keen art connoisseurs, and reveals how the royal couple had a private passion for documenting their lives together.

For summer 2019 the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne is hosting ‘Victoria and Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour’, a new touring exhibition of watercolours loaned by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection with some paintings that are to be publicly displayed for the first time.

Themes in the exhibition include home and family, royal progresses, civic pride and engineering prowess, the love of spectacle and public events, as well as overseas visits.

a watercolour of the interior of an ornate domed building with large carved tombs in the middle

The interior of the Royal Mausoleum, Frogmore dated 1883 by Gabriele Mariano Nicolai Carelli (1821-1900). Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

an interiro of a room with decorated table festooned with garlands and flowers

Queen Victoria’s Birthday Table at Osborne, 24 May 1861. by James Roberts. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

a watercolour painting of barge arriving at a port with a church in the background

Paul Jacob, The Queen and Prince Albert landing at St Pierre, Guernsey, 24 August 1846. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

It reflects the royal couple’s distinctive tastes and habit for gifting each other art to symbolise their love and sentiment. Beyond the watercolours, these gifts could be highly unusual and included everything from jewellery made of stags teeth from Albert’s first hunt to the baby teeth of their children and pebbles picked up together from their private beach at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

But it’s the watercolours that tell their own story of Victoria and Albert here; a series of them reveals the grandeur of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, as in Caleb Robert Stanley’s ‘The garden front of Buckingham Palace’ (1839) and Joseph Nash’s ‘Queen Victoria’s Bedroom, Windsor Castle’ (1847).

A tender portrait of their son Arthur (1853) as a toddler painted by the Queen herself reveals much of her own devotion and maternal love towards her children.

Victoria and Albert travelled extensively throughout the United Kingdom and the paintings of this royal progress were designed to show their great popularity as a couple. ‘The entry of Queen Victoria into Paris’ (1855) by Adolphe-Jean-Baptiste Bayot and Adrien Dauzats, is a typical set piece which shows great crowds welcoming the couple with cheers and hats held aloft.

painting of an ornate interior with a vaulted roof

The Small Knights’ Hall, Schloss Stolzenfels dated 1847, by Carl Georg Anton Graeb (1816-84). Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

a watwercolour painting of Victorians in their finery crowding a grand staircase and hallway

The Grand Staircase at Buckingham Palace, State Ball, 5 July 1848 dated 1848 Eugene-Louis Lami (1800-90). Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

a watercolour of dignitaries greeting each other on a red carpet next to flags and a large marquee

Eugène-Louis Lami, Marie-Amélie, Queen of the French, greets Queen Victoria at Le Tréport, c.1843–4. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

William Wyld’s imposing ‘St George’s Hall, Liverpool’ (1852) bears testimony to some of the enormous building projects that were conducted during Victoria’s reign while Eugenio Ageni’s ‘The children’s costume ball at Buckingham Palace’ (1859) shows a riotous display of colour, movement and fun.

The exhibition also features watercolours depicting the couple’s overseas visits. During the Queen’s reign, Britain’s relations with Germany and France were strong, bolstered by the royal family’s own ties with its neighbouring states’ rulers.

In 1845, Victoria and Albert realised a long-held dream when they travelled to Coburg, the Prince’s birthplace and Douglas Morison’s ‘Schloss Rosenau’ (1845) acts as a visual record of one of the royal couple’s favourite locations.

Victoria and Albert were married on 10th February 1840 and had nine children over the following two decades. When the Prince died from typhoid in 1861, the Queen mourned him by wearing nothing but black clothing for the remaining forty years of her life.

Alongside ‘Victoria and Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour’, a complimentary display curated by the Laing Art Gallery will include a number of watercolours by John Dobson, illustrating designs for significant architectural developments in Newcastle during her reign. A statue showing the Queen at a young age in front of the RVI by George Frampton and a bronze maquette will feature as part of the show.

a photo of grandly dressed Victorian children playing in a large ballroom

The Children’s Fancy Ball at Buckingham Palace, 7th April 1859 by Eugenio Agneni (1816-1879). Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

a sheet of watercolours and practice landscapes

Watercolour practice sheet by Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-1901). Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

a watercolour lookin across a lake towards trees

Killarney Middle Lake from Copper Mine Bay (dated 27 Aug 1861) by Mary Herbert (1817-93). Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Victoria and Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour is at the Laing Art Gallery from June 29 – September 15 2019.


Laing Art Gallery

Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear

Situated in the centre of Newcastle, the Laing is home to an impressive collection of art and sculpture. Its exhibition programme is renowned for bringing the biggest names in art to the North East and includes historic, modern and contemporary art. This gallery has a Designated Collection of national importance…

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