In remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II: Her Majesty's life in 10 portraits

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest reigning monarch, passed away peacefully on Thursday at the age of 96.

In 1952, she took the British throne aged 26. Beloved by the world, the Queen was an inspiration to numerous artists, leading to a multitude of memorable images across almost every medium throughout her 70-year reign. Among them are artworks created by some of the most leading artists, including Andy Warhol and Lucian Freud. 

While her many faces had been captured on canvas, The Value has selected ten signature portraits of the Queen to revisit the life of this giant of the times.

Dorothy Wilding, Hand-coloured by Beatrice Johnson | Queen Elizabeth II, 1952

Shortly after her Accession to the Throne, Queen Elizabeth II, at the age of 25, sat for a series of iconic portraits taken by renowned photographer Dorothy Wilding. Hand-coloured by Beatrice Johnson, these official phtographs were to commemorate the coronation of The Queen; and were the basis of her images on coins, stamps and banknotes in Britain and around the Commonwealth from 1952 up to the present.

Pietro Annigoni | Queen Elizabeth II, 1955

Two years after the Queen on the throne, the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers commissioned a full-length portrait of Her Majesty from Italian Painter Pietro Annigoni, where sittings took place at Buckingham Palace. The result was this Renaissance style painting, capturing the young and dignified Queen wearing the robes of the Order of the Garter in an imaginary landscape.

The work is displayed at the livery hall, Fishmongers' Hall in London and received widespread acclaim. Satisfied with the artwork, the Queen had asked Annigoni to paint her again in 1969. 

Susan Crawford | Her Majesty the Queen on Worcran, 1977

A well-known animal lover, Queen Elizabeth II was equally passionate about horses as with her corgis. Having taken horse ridding lessons since young, equitation had become her life-long interest, a sports she would still play in her final years. 

This painting was a gift commissioned by the regiments of the Household Division to Her Majesty in order to celebrate the Silver Jubilee. Created by famous equestrian artist Susan Crawford, the Queen was captured with Worcran, an ex-racehorse that belonged to the Queen Mother and won the third place in the Champion Hurdle. 

Andy Warhol | Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, 1985

"My idea of a good picture is one that’s in focus and of a famous person," said Pop art master Andy Warhol. In 1985, he embarked on a grand project to create paintings for the most recognisable face in the world – Queen Elizabeth II, alongside three other Reigning Queens, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. 

In 1982, his European dealer George Mulder wrote to the monarch’s private secretary, asking for permission to use the Queen's portrait in a set of four screenprints. After getting the green light, Warhol completed the paintings in 1985, with four prints in various colour-ways.

Justin Mortimer | The Queen, 1998

Born in 1970, Justin Mortimer came to fame aged 21, when he won the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious BP Portrait Award, known as 'the portraiture Oscars'.

In 1998, he was commissioned by the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce to create this portrait to mark the 50-year relationship between the institution and the monarch. However, the work has aroused controversy, with some arguing that it is disrespectful to show the Queen's head floating in the air. Whereas others praised the Queen for embracing contemporary and modern style of art, as she later asked for another portrait of her own Lord Chamberlain by the artist. 

Lucian Freud | HM Queen Elizabeth II, c.1999 - 2001

A titan of post-war British figurative painter, Lucian Freud is renowned for his portraits, where he painted exclusively from life and notoriously demanding months of his sitter’s time. For this portrait of Her Majesty, the painter took 18 months to finish, with a resulting artwork of 8 inches in height. 

According to the artist's biography, the Queen did not say what she thought of it but seemed very pleased – saying to him, “Very nice of you to do this. I’ve very much enjoyed watching you mix your colours.”

Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy | Queen Elizabeth II, 2002

Also portraying the Queen with cloak of the Order of the Garter – lying on a chair next to her, this painting was to mark Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee in 2002, created by Nigerian-born artist Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy. To celebrate her as a leading world figure, the painter positioned the Queen in front of various landmarks from Commonwealth countries, inlcuding India’s Taj Mahal, the Houses of Parliament and the Sydney Opera House.

Chris Levine | Equanimity, 2004

A rare photograph of the Queen with her eyes closed, the work is one of the most well-loved 21st-century representations of Her Majesty.

In 2004, the Jersey Heritage Trust commissioned Chris Levine, an artist renowned for his work with lights, laser and holography, to create the first holographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The piece was to mark the Island of Jersey’s 800 years of allegiance to the Crown. The portrait, titled Equanimity, was presented to the National Portrait Gallery by the people of Jersey in 2011. 

George Condo | Dreams and Nightmares of the Queen, 2006

Commissioned by the Wrong Gallery for displaying at Tate Modern, George Condo's portrait of the Queen is perhaps the most controversial and criticized one. In the painting, Her Majesty is portrayed as what the artist described 'a toothless Cabbage Patch Doll' in his signature surrealist-distorted style. 

Condo later explained, “It is a nightmare picture of herself in her own head. It is an improvisation of her own nightmare.” While the Queen maintained silence about the artwork, Brendan Kelly of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters described it as “embarrassingly bad”.

Oluwole Omofemi | The Queen, 2022

This portrait by Nigerian artist Oluwole Omofemi is a special commission for the cover of Tatler’s Platinum Jubilee issue. Based on a 1950s portrait of the Queen holding a fan, the painter has tranformed Her Majesty into a Nigerian lady — appearing in black hair, as with his iconic style.