They are some of the world’s most recognisable faces and their position in the Royal family determines that their lives are chronicled in portraits.
Photographers from Mario Testino and Annie Leibovitz to a succession of artists have all been given access to capture their public lives whether in more informal poses, chatting with sports stars or on overseas tours to more traditional formal images marking milestone birthdays and occasions.
Many art galleries are blank canvases, stark and simply designed to show off works to their best effect, but for over 30 years Beningbrough Hall, near York, has been displaying some of the nation’s artworks from the National Portrait Gallery in a period setting. Royals: then and now features works from the national collections never seen at the hall before and follows on from a Royal exhibition last year featuring other works.
David Morgan, general manager at Beningbrough Hall, said: “Through the partnership with the National Portrait Gallery we are able to bring some of the most sought after and culturally important pieces of royal portraiture from the national collection to Yorkshire.”
Highlights include the first commissioned painting by the National Portrait Gallery in 1980 of Prince Charles by Bryan Organ. A striking acrylic on canvas, it shows the heir in a relaxed pose and costume, shortly before his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer was announced.
American photographer Annie Leibovitz’s series of photographs of Queen Elizabeth II to mark a state visit to America in 2007 are also featured. The Queen is shown wearing an Admiral’s boat cloak in the grounds of Buckingham Palace against a brooding sky in an atmospheric portrait. She features in other images and a Mario Testino picture of Prince William for his 21st is also on show.
The contemporary collection also shows the informal side of the monarchy. Jillian Edelstein has captured a relaxed and smiling Duchess of Cambridge with members of the Great Britain hockey team in 2012, while David Bailey has captured a similar relaxed atmosphere in a 1989 commissioned portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales.
In contrast, Jason Bell’s portrait to mark the christening of Prince George is a formal group shot and emphasises the royal dynasty showing the current monarch and three heirs.
Beningbrough Hall has been a northern home for a substantial collection of the National Portrait Gallery’s eighteenth-century portraits since 1979. Royals: then and now, runs from February 28 until November 1, introduces new portraits to Beningbrough and also features others popular portraits from last year’s exhibition.
Ms Pim Baxter, deputy director of the National Portrait Gallery, in London, said: “The portraits are imaginatively displayed offering a wonderful opportunity to see them in the setting of this great country house.”