Conversation piece at the Royal Lodge, Windsor
Conversation piece at the Royal Lodge, Windsor
by Sir James Gunn
oil on canvas, 1950
59 1/2 in. x 39 1/2 in. (1511 mm x 1003 mm)
Sittersback to top
- Queen Elizabeth II (1926-), Queen regnant. Sitter associated with 967 portraits. Identify
- Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900-2002), Queen of George VI. Sitter associated with 580 portraits, Artist of 1 portrait. Identify
- King George VI (1895-1952), Reigned 1936-52. Sitter associated with 562 portraits. Identify
- Princess Margaret (1930-2002), Daughter of George VI; Countess of Snowdon. Sitter associated with 293 portraits. Identify
Artistback to top
- Sir James Gunn (1893-1964), Painter. Artist of 11 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.
This portraitback to top
The portrait shows King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), and her sister Princess Margaret. Throughout the Second World War, the Royal Family remained in London, and when Buckingham Palace received a direct hit the queen said, ‘now we can look the East End in the face’. Determination to share in the fate of the nation increased the monarchy’s popularity. In this post-war portrait, the informality of the presentation, for which the Queen was responsible, was entirely new. The setting is Royal Lodge, where the family’s life was informal. They are shown together at tea-time, a recognisable and very British occasion. Gunn, who had been chosen by the King and Queen for the commission, recalled the difficulty of placing the corgi, moving it about on the canvas in a paper cut-out. Commissioned to hang in a public collection, the work’s domestic character demonstrates changes in perceptions of the monarchy.
Linked publicationsback to top
- I-Spy National Portrait Gallery, 2010, p. 49
- Audio Guide
- Smartify image discovery app
- Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 214 Read entry
In Sir James Gunn's portrait, King George VI is joined by his wife, Queen Elizabeth, and daughters Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, for tea. The women's attention is fixed on the king, who is shown enjoying a cigarette while the family's pet corgi sleeps nearby. The relaxed intimacy of this depiction was entirely new in the context of formal royal portraiture and its small size is in marked contrast to traditional large-group portraits of the royal family.
Throughout the Second World War, the royal family had remained in London, demonstrating a determination to share in the fate of the nation, which won them popular approval. This portrait was an official commission for the National Portrait Gallery, and in representing the very British ritual of afternoon tea, it manages to be both patriotic and informal, and is reflective of a new spirit in the monarchy. In his final Christmas radio broadcast, George VI reflected on the importance of 'friendliness', an approach in contrast with that of more remote monarchs of previous centuries: 'among all the blessings which we may count today, the chief one is that we are a friendly people ... in an age which is hard and cruel.'
- Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 53 Read entry
This commissioned work stresses the informal, family aspect of an everyday occasion. The artist had trouble placing the corgi, using paper cut-outs to move it around the canvas.
- Gittings, Clare, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I: An Educational Resource Pack, 2003
- Lloyd, Christopher, The paintings in the Royal Collection : a thematic exploration, 1999, p. 215
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 229
- Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 230
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 719
- Williamson, David, Kings and Queens, 2010, p. 164
- Williamson, David, The National Portrait Gallery: History of the Kings and Queens of England, 1998, p. 165
Placesback to top
- Place portrayed: United Kingdom: England, Berkshire (sitter's home, Royal Lodge, Windsor Great Park)
Subjects & Themesback to top
- Art in art
- Books and libraries
- Carpets and textiles
- Chairs and thrones
- Clocks and timepieces
- Eating and drinking
- Events and occasions
- Family portraits
- Flowers and plants
- Group portraits
- In profile
- Jewellery - Bangles and bracelets
- Jewellery - Brooches, buckles and pins
- Jewellery - Earrings
- Jewellery - Pearls
- Jewellery - Pendants and necklaces
- Known interiors
- Pets and animals
- Pets and animals - Dogs
Events of 1950back to top
Current affairsPrincess Anne is born at Clarence house, the only daughter of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Art and scienceC.S. Lewis publishes The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Lewis was an Oxford Don, specialising in Medieval Literature and its use of allegory. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is often seen as an allegory of the Christian struggle between good and evil.
InternationalFollowing the Soviet and American withdrawal from the occupation of North and South Korea respectively, the Korean War breaks out as each side seeks to unify Korea under its own political system. While the U.S.A., U.K and other UN nations came to the defence of South Korea, North Korea had support from the Soviet Union and China. The war continued until 1953.
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