06 March 2008

Annie and the Queen

 

new1

Detail of Annie Leibovitz photograph

A few nights ago Barbara Walters hosted a special on the Queen of England using footage from a BBC documentary based on a year in the life of the Queen and her family.    As it turned out, the most fascinating segment of the two hour special was a photo session with famed American photographer Annie Leibovitz and the Queen Elizabeth.  Leibovitz was hired by the Queen to take her official portrait to commemorate the royal visit to Jamestown in celebration of  its 400th birthday.  The documentary captured a few tense moments when Annie asked the incredulous Queen to remove her tiara because "the garter robe is so.....," Annie paused, and the Queen snapped back "Less dressy?  What do you think this?" while angrily pointing to her over-the-top garter robe.  This exchanged caused a major controversy in England when the BBC's aired the special. In the BBC version, the camera cuts to the Queen storming out after the exchange with Leibovitz.  It then shows the Queen testily saying  to her Lady-in-Waiting:  "I'm not changing anything.  I've had enough dressing like this thank you very much."  Someone at the BBC was actually fired for showing this scene out of context.  Barbara Walters got the context correct.  The scene with the Queen stomping out and refusing to "change anything" was actually filmed as she was walking INTO the photo session with Leibovitz not OUT of it.  British Fleet Street had a  field day with the BBC's deception and Barbara Walters wasn't about to repeat the error. 

Regardless  of all the uproar over the photo session, the actual footage of it was amusing and it showed the Queen acting "human" in front of  the cameras for the first time in memory.   What is not surprising is that Leibovitz' resulting photographs  are stellar.  Leave it to Leibovitz, more used to photographing rock stars and actors,  to capture the Queen as she has never been captured before.  The photographs are moody, regal, dark, atmospheric, and mesmerizing.  Rarely has the Queen been successfully shown both artistically and beautifully.  Most artistic portraits of Elizabeth to date have been downright hideous.  Leibovitz released four pictures from the photo session.  Each is fascinating.

 

queenALMS0505_468x453

Critics of this Leibovitz photograph say the Queen looks like a vampire. Instead, I find it hauntingly beautiful.

  snowdon

Contrast the above Leibovitz picture with this official one taken by the Queen's brother-in-law, Lord Snowdon.  Nice, but utterly boring. 

new

Another photo from the Leibovitz sitting.  This one was inspired by the portrait of Queen Charlotte that hangs in the National Gallery in London (below).  The room is regal enough, but the windows look like they were stolen from a government building.

charlotte

Queen Charlotte, Leibovitz' inspiration for the  photograph shown above.

QueenElizabeth2

The third Leibovitz photograph:   The Queen in her garter robe, taken

right after she was asked to remove her crown.   I love the composition here with the Queen to the right while the room takes up most of the space.

calder

Contrast the above Leibovitz photograph with this one of the Queen in her royal robes taken by Calder.  Leibovitz' pictures look like paintings rather than photos.   Here, the Queen looks like she was just told a funny joke.

queenbbcb1107_468x268

This is a still taken from the documentary at the exact moment Leibovitz asked the Queen to remove her tiara.  " Say what????? "   She doesn't look too pleased with Leibovitz here!   The Queen's main concern was how her hair would look if the tiara was removed.

QueenElizabeth3

The final photograph released from the photo shoot.   Again, this picture seems more a painting than a photograph.  Art critics raved about the photos, while the public was mostly appalled by them.

_1723071_queen_freud300

The Queen painted by Lucian Freud, one of the world's most famous and accomplished artist.  The public severely criticized this portrait, but the art critics loved it. The Queen was said to be not amused.  Knowing what a Freud looks like, she should not have been surprised.  Note:  She's wearing her tiara here!

rolfharris

This commissioned portrait painted by Rolf Harris, was more accepted than Freud's and Leibovitz' images of the Queen.  I think it's just terrible and doesn't even look like her.

georgecondo

The Queen as a cabbage patch doll by George  Condo.  Believe it or not, this actually hung in the Tate Museum of Modern Art.

beaton

The Queen,at her coronation photographed  by the great  Cecil Beaton.  The contrast between Beaton's style and Leibovitz' style could not be greater.

damley

Royal portraiture from another age:  The first Queen Elizabeth painted by Damley.        

 

Which is your favorite image of Queen Elizabeth - and don't say  The Cabbage Patch Doll!

57 comments:

  1. I find the first photo absolutely stunning in its elegant simplicity. There is nothing that is superfluous, and nothing can be eliminated. I see a sobering study of power and responsibility.
    The Rolf Harris painting resembles Barbara Bush more than Elizabeth. It presents a very "rumpled" interpretation. Nope, this is not a political statement....just an observation.
    All in all, Annie L. has found something fresh and new in a subject who has been portrayed a gazillion times. The portraits are testaments of artistic brilliance.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oops! By the "first portrait", I was referring to the one with the severe cape and landscape background. The actual first portrait in expected regalia...not so much a groundbreaker.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sharon - I knew what you meant - that's my favorite one too - she could be Heathcliff's grandmother in that picture. haha!!!!

    Joni

    ReplyDelete
  4. In Canada we got the BBC version (4 hours?) of the doc last month. The Leibovitz shoot was odd, but then we don't get to see that many photo shoots, when I think about my 91 year old grandmother being asked to sit and pose and then be shuffled off somewhere else, I can't see her enjoying it much.

    My favourite images of the Queen are the Leibovitz's photos. As a viewer you can read a lot into them - the solitary nature of the position, the isolation maybe even sadness of a woman born into a certain class and job, the grand life... the window open in one shot could be signallying a symbiotic relationship b/w the establishment and the people, and yet they are lovely and haunting and brooding pictures. It feels as though they are aware that they convey a woman and an institution/position past her/its heyday.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The rooms and the clothes are more interesting than the queen's face. She's just not that interesting a portrait subject. But I do like the backgrounds.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love the one of her in the cape. It's not at all a pose you would expect to see the Queen in.
    It's refreshing to see her without a hat or her crown or some form of gown on.
    It makes her feel a little more human.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am such an admirer of A.L.'s work. I am loving the second photo too. Definitely art! I do see the vampire likeness you are talking about though! LOL! But a very romantisized version.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Definitely the portrait with the cape is my favorite. It is from another era, one of English mystery novels...yet, so contemporary. I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I also prefer the portrait with the landscape and the cape. To me, she seems to have more intelligence, and the background is a good reflection of the times we live in, and the troubles her monarchy is struggling to survive. The other Leibowitz photos, as with the Queen Charlotte painting, are lovely, but portray someone removed, lonely and sad. Probably not the image she wants. I also enjoy the Cecil Beaton photo. The Lucien Freud painting is not one of his best, and seems a juvenile trick to me. He doesn't often portray powerful women, although he has painted many powerful men. And the painting of QEI is terrific.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Love the last photograph - It looks as if the party's over and HRM is ready to call it a night.
    The Freud is dreadful - looks as if he painted it from the bottom of a glass.
    Rolf Harris should be deported!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love the third Liebovitz photo. The light coming from the window is awesome and the negative space to the left just works for me. It reminds me a bit of a John Singer Sargent portrait.

    I love the Cecil Beaton because it shows her as a young woman, before the weight of the monarchy transformed her. She seems sweet.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wouldn't you love to just brush her hair out?!!!!! There might be a human under there.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I like the photo of the queen when she was young - and that cabbage patch doll comment of yours at the end of the post makes me laugh:-)

    Right! I'm off into your archives! :-)
    Felicity XOX

    ReplyDelete
  14. My mum called me to remind me to watch this...of course, I promptly forgot!! Thanks for the glimpse into part of the feature...one I gather I would have enjoyed very much.

    Personally, Annie Liebovitz is a rock star in my books...her photos are works of art in more ways than one.

    Linda

    ReplyDelete
  15. The Freud portrait captures her aggression, and her near-sexlessness.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi - thanks for all the great comments. I'm taken back by how deep and thought provoking the comments have been. I wasn't expecting any comments at all! I've always loved Leibovitz but these are some of my favorites - just amazing!

    Thanks again!
    Joni

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've always loved Annie Liebovitz' style, and I have to say that my favorite was the one of her in the robe - beautiful and simple and appropriately regal. I happened to catch the piece myself, and my favorite was that AL wanted her to pose sitting on a horse! HA! I loved seeing the queen's reaction to some very nontraditional requests :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. My favorite is the fifth one down. I bought the book a while back and that is the picture on the cover, loved it then and now. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Annie is the Queen of the camera! Amazing and I have always loved her photography. Oddly, it has a "Wegman" quality-(the one with the cape)
    I want to photograph my dog like this!

    It must be hard to be Queen! Second oddity is that she reminds me so much of my Grandmother who really looked like her. (She died when I was a wee little one) but she had a certain formality to her as well as a seriousness about life.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Rolf Harris' portrait makes her look like Barbara Cartland /shudder (who was the step-grandmother of Princess Diana of all things).

    I think my favorite two are #1 the Freud which I adore and the one where the Queen is seated looking out. It seems so sad and introspective. As if she’s looking back on her reign with some regrets and pride.

    None of Freud's works are flattering to people at least. She should have realized this. Although Freud did a wonderful painting of Sarah Ferguson's father adn the Queen's husband.

    Freud's paintings seem to specialize in the grotesque - look at the Leigh Bowery paintings. the only flattering ones I've ever seen him do were younger children and his beloved dogs.

    ReplyDelete
  21. The garter robe shot is my favorite because of the composition. The remarkable volume of the room and the way the eye is led from the folds of the Queen's cape back to the door where the past of the whole British Empire lies in metaphorical shadow.

    The vampire picture while beautiful is less about the monarchy, more a portrait of a woman's difficult endurance in the midst of bleakness and powerlessness (the Queen having little power and merely figurehead status).

    AL is amazing. Several yrs ago I saw an exhibit of hers at the Women's Museum in Dallas of large scale prints of her many famous portraits. Abso-fabulous.

    Thanks, Joni! Again, laughed out loud and practically snorted coffee through my nose this morning, when I got to your "Say whaaat" comment.

    have a good w/end
    Libby

    ReplyDelete
  22. As a Canadian I grew up with a picture of The Queen hanging over the blackboard in the front of my classroom. Every morning we had to sing God Save the Queen. That happened everyday for the first 7 years of my schooling. I see there still is that fascination with pictures of the Queen!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Her Majesty's reaction to the thought of removing her crown reminds of the famous story behind Winston Churchill's greatest portrait by Karsh -- when the Canadian photographer suddenly grabbed Churchill's cigar -- and then snapped the picture! But her very human reaction that her hair might not look right made me smile! I do like the portrait with the cape -- very dramatic. I always like seeing her in her Barbour jacket with the dogs and a Range Rover!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

    ReplyDelete
  24. Fascinating post, Jonie! All A.L. photos are gorgeous. The black cape photo conveys power and responsibility. She looks strong and commanding. It's an unusual portrait of a woman, as there's nothing feminine conveyed - it's more like a portrait of a general going off to war. I think that's what frightened people. In the other 2, she comes across as a real woman with vulnerabilities, engulfed by the trappings of her position. She's portrayed as just a part of the scenario and not the central fixture, so maybe people didn't feel like she was treated with enough respect. But, I think the Rolf Harris painting trivializes her status and position, while A.L.'s actually grant her much more humanity and dignity. Lana

    ReplyDelete
  25. It's a shame the family's ugliness genes keep getting stronger through inbreeding.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Those great big windows at Buckingham Palace look to be late Victorian, early Edwardian replacements .. the building was thoroughly modernized about 100 years ago, so the windows were likely very up to date then! I love the "vampire" portrait (she looks regal and the forbidding weather is fabulous) ... and the one by the open windows at BH, which is haunting and poetic. She was so fresh and beautiful when young, not dazzling, but a beauty nonetheless; Princess Margaret, on the other hand, was ravishing in her early 20s, those massive eyes, like an Indian miniature (no pun intended).

    ReplyDelete
  27. I tivo'd that program and just watched it 30 minutes ago so it's all fresh in my mind. I'm with you, some of those portraits are hauntingly beautiful. And as soon as I heard about the proposed posing on the horse pic, I knew the Queen would nix it!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I doubt the windows are "Edwardian"; they were probably replaced in recent years with frames and glass that could withstand bullets (and more). Unlike architectural revisions, security updates like those are never publicized.

    For every royal who was decent looking for a few fleeting moments, there is a Princess Anne to compensate.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love the photo of her gazing out of the balcony window

    ....I am so sorry I missed...I had it on my calender and then something upstaged it....I wonder if there's any way to still view it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I saw that program, too, Joni. Pretty interesting. That Freud portrait really looks more like Prince Philip than the Queen...

    ReplyDelete
  31. I enjoyed the Barbara Walters show, also.

    I think that my favorite photos are #4 (the one toward the middle, with the "government building windows"), and #5.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Cote, I have a question.... It has nothing to do with the Queen. In a past post you featured lighting. They were wonderful and quite expensive. Is there a place in Houston area where lighting has "the look" but not the price? Please inform me.
    Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  33. To Anonymous - regarding the lighting in Houston - please email me at mrballbox329@aol.com

    thanks!
    Joni

    ReplyDelete
  34. Thanks for this post - I had never seen any of these shots and Annie's are amazing. I found it hard to pick a favourite although the caped one just nudges out the others for its Wuthering Heights aesthetic. Was never overly interested in Lizzy but these are fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I love this post--I've always been fascinated by the Queen and Royal Family, and Annie Leibovitz, for that matter. Combine them all together, and it makes for very interesting company, indeed! My favourite is the Leibovitz portrait inspired by the portrait of Queen Charlotte, although I quite like all the ones released from this sitting.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I watched that special and enjoyed that part best too. I like the portrait that mimics Queen Charlotte. The lighting is so stunning. And the reflection in the window hints at the Queen's sometimes stormy relationship with her people. It's just so rich and deep.
    Hugs, Laura

    ReplyDelete
  37. I watched also and thought the exchange was the hi-light of the show. I totally enjoyed it and blogged about it the next day.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Leibovitz's photos are stunning... I too like the one with the cape, So strange a place for the subject to be, yet beautiful, I can just see a hunting dog coming up the side.
    And the one at the window is lovely, I love the painting feel.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Ditto Teacats
    Like seeing her with her dogs, horses and range rover. Cape shot was stunning but she is most happy in a natural setting.Loved the idea that your Blog was on her majesty. What an interesting family

    ReplyDelete
  40. I'm so glad you posted these. I think the one in the Garter Robe is haunting. The storm clouds in the background, the severity of the robe, the look on her face, totally haunting. Not in a vampirish way, but rather as a statement from a reigning queen. Figurehead, notwithstanding, she is an incredibly strong woman who has always performed her duty immpecably for her country. And yet all she has given up is there in her face as well.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I think the Queen Charlotte inspired photo is very dramatic and yes. It does have a tinge of sadness to it for me. I am one who admires the Queen for her duty to country, even at the expense of so much.
    The first photo, the garter robe is my favorite however. It is hauntingly beautiful...magical.
    I love AL's work and am impressed with her results here. The bit with her at the Palace was the best part of the 2 hour documentary!
    I have long had a fascination with the Royals, the good, the bad, the awful.
    Thanks you once again for a fun and oh so interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
  42. My favorite photo is the 4th photo down - the one of the Queen in a room with stormy skies outside. I've always loved stormy weather in photos - maybe the moodiness or how it makes the photo so dramatic and mysterious. This was a really neat idea for a post! Thanks!

    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  43. I just stumbled upon your blog about Annie L.'s photo shoot with the Queen. A.L. is a spectacular photographer and I adore her work. I saw a large exhibit of hers in Dallas and became a die-hard fan, but I think this shoot somehow overwhelmed her or she had absolutely NO feeling for her subject. The close-up of the Queen looks like anybody's beautiful, elderly grandmother sitting fully regaled in all the things she brought with her from her past as she waits for the shopping bus to pick her up. The emotion is as though she has already left.
    The cape picture seems far too staged, something I rarely feel when Annie really gets going with her subjects. This enures more to the Queen than to Annie. I rather suspect that the Queen was a difficult subject.
    Bebe

    ReplyDelete
  44. Bebe - you have to see the documentary about the photo shoot - you can probably google it - it's amazing!!!!!!! The queen was non too pleased with Miss L. haha!! thanks for the comment.

    Joni

    ReplyDelete
  45. The "caped" pic. reminded me of an Ozzy Osbourne video (in a "good way"). I particularly like that one ... but then I like them all. (A.L.'s) The cabbage patch one is priceless and don't believe the Queen is above a good laugh..even at herself! After all she's just human! I wish someone would paint a "cabbage-patch" portrait of me :)

    ReplyDelete
  46. love love love this collection !! what a great find!

    ReplyDelete
  47. YOU SUCK!!!!!
    rolf harris is awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  48. Rolf Harris knows what he's doing. I know you might think he's just a popular artist, but he did have a painting accepted at the Royal Academy before he was famous. I think he captured a different aspect from Annie Liebowitz. Her portraits are equally good, although it's like comparing apples with oranges.

    ReplyDelete
  49. The Cecil Beaton photographs are definitely the best by far bar none.

    ReplyDelete
  50. louis vuitton uk are diversified in various kinds, handbags, backpacks, portable bags, purses, wallets and pouches. All kinds are popular among the whole word people.louis vuitton Store Online Handbags can also bring great accuracy as well as practical applicability and fashionable.Have you ever dreamed of being as charming as Madonna? Have you ever thought of becoming an envy of all your friends? If so, come to louis vuitton outlet.

    ReplyDelete
  51. At the coach outlet online you have the largest selection of the day. If you touch the item and like it, keep it in your possession until you make your final decision.The coach factory outlet has been in business for many years. You can log in to find more information about its products and services.You know, Coach items are so perfect and fascinating. Now I grow up, and find coach outlet on the Internet offering affordable products with reliable quality.

    ReplyDelete
  52. There certainly are a amount of methods to acquire affordable coach products at coach factory outlet,it could possibly the most effective options.the most vital cause may be the reality that you simply can purchase genuine coach products at there.All people give the good comments for the coach factory online, and now the Coach outlet store provides many discount goods online.Coach bags enjoy high popularity throughout the world. I would like to share the coach factory outlet online with you. What are you waiting for? Just come to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  53. There certainly are a amount of methods to acquire affordable coach products at coach factory outlet,it could possibly the most effective options.the most vital cause may be the reality that you simply can purchase genuine coach products at there.It is believed that you will like the products on the coach factory online. There are spacious sizes and different colors, styles and so on.in the market you definitely can find various colorways that are designed in as well as the high quality that applied in. For most of you would like to come. So just come to our coach factory outlet online store to choose one.

    ReplyDelete
  54. The coach bags are utilized for formal event in company area that will display your excellent taste.Not only does a briefcase make is easier to carry things.coach outlet store online with fashion style and top quality succeed. In any occasions they are very suitable and appropriate for its precise and rich design.Coach Poppy Signature Carryall Handbag purchased from the coach outlet store is an ideal bag for every occasion. It's a lovely hot pink bag with a comfortable double strap that can be handheld.

    ReplyDelete
  55. The Coach bag is from the latest release of Coach Bags. Its crisp, scribble material, leather handle, perfectly complements the relaxed shape of this stylish pouch. All the items of coach outlet online Store fit all of your essentials and more.Bright colors, exquisite workmanship, durable material and up-to-date style all lead to the great fame of the goods in coach outlet.As a fashion and modern lady, you can never have too many bags but Coach, Coach is a great leather handbags brand. coach outlet store online have different look according to different designer concept.

    ReplyDelete