Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

1 portrait of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

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Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

by Alison Watt
oil on canvas, 1989
40 in. x 36 in. (1016 mm x 914 mm)
Commissioned as part of the First Prize, 1987 John Player Portrait Award, 1989
Primary Collection
NPG 6042

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Alison Watt (1965-), Painter. Artist or producer of 1 portrait, Sitter in 1 portrait.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 204
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 190 Read entry

    Painted and gessoed obeche, reverse section, mitred, the main moulding planted on a fiat back frame, chamfered fabric slip. 4 3⁄ 8 inches wide plus 3⁄ 4 inch slip.

    This frame was made by Stephen Carruthers of Artworks the Framemakers, Glasgow, for Alison Watt in 1989 at a cost of £141.05 with the glass. She had come across his work as a framemaker at an exhibition in Glasgow while still a student at the Glasgow School of Art and liked the straightforward and sensitive way he spoke about what he did.1 It was Carruthers who persuaded her to enter her Self-portrait with Tea Cup, a picture he felt had a humorous touch, in the John Player Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in 1987. Her first prize brought her the commission for this portrait.

    Alison Watt knows that gold or silver would kill the colour in her paintings and often uses this warm off-white for her frames. The paint mixture, says Carruthers, has a polish in it with a gold powder, and here has a brushed surface the fabric slip picks up the texture of the canvas.

    Many of Alison Watt's recent pictures have quite simple frames but for the portrait of the Queen Mother it was thought the frame should be slightly more formal and not too simple because of the nature of the sitter. Although the idea of the reverse section came from mouldings Stephen Carruthers showed her, he recalls not being allowed to see the portrait before making the frame owing to the confidentiality attached to the commission. The result, Alison Watt has suggested, is a frame which fell back and blended into the wall, but brought out the picture at the same time.

    1 Much of this entry is based on telephone conversations with both Watt and Carruthers, 19 April 1996.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1989back to top

Current affairs

96 people are crushed to death at the Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield. The accident took place when Liverpool fans were all let into the stadium at once. Incoming crowds crushed people against a fence used to prevent pitch-invasions. Following the Taylor Report into the incident standing terraces and fences between fans and pitch were banned.

Art and science

Following the publication of Anglo-Indian writer Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses in 1988, the leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, announces that the book is 'blasphemous against Islam' and places a fatwah (death sentence) on Rushdie, who is forced into hiding for several years.


The Berlin Wall is dismantled, reunifying East and West Germany and symbolising the end of the Cold War. Following a decision to allow East Berliners to cross the border with valid visas, crowds swarmed the border crossings. Guards soon gave up trying to stop them, and the physical dismantlement of the wall soon began.
Approximately 2,000 Chinese demonstrators are massacred in Tiananmen Square while protesting against the government.

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