Friday, April 09, 2021

Prince Philip (1921-2021) - the painter

Many will write today about the passing of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh and consort to HM The Queen who died peacefully at Windsor Castle this morning.

I wonder if any will mention his interest in painting. 
(They did - see 2021 articles referenced below)

Below I'm going to comment on what I know of his interest in art and design - and in painting.

Prince Philip painting on Britannia - by Edward Seago

I've seen many paintings by Prince Charles - which are regularly exhibited in art society exhibitions in London. I guess that this interest in painting was probably derived from the fact his father also had an interest in painting during time available for leisure.

The Duke of Edinburgh has had a life-long interest in art and design, both as a patron and collector, and as an artist himself. His atmospheric oil painting of Duart Castle from the Sound of Mull in the Western Isles is included in the exhibition. Prince Philip: Celebrating Ninety Years at the Drawings Gallery in Windsor Castle | artdaily

Paintings by Prince Philip have however been rarely seen - until relatively recently. 

Tuition by Edward Seago

Prince Philip received tuition in painting from the artist Edward (Ted) Seago (1910-1974). RBA ARWS RWS - a self-taught English artist who painted in both oils and watercolours.   

I love the fact that the above painting indicates the Prince acquired all the necessary paraphernalia for plein air painting while travelling!  His preferred medium was oils (whereas Prince Charles opts for the rather more practical watercolour).

The choice of Seago as a tutor probably came about because the Queen Mother, who had a really interesting personal art collection, was a great fan of Seago. She was also the only person who did not have to queue to buy his paintings!

Seago was also from Norfolk and liked to paint landscapes and seascapes around Norfolk and hence knew the sort of landscape that the Prince might see when visiting the royal home at Sandringham in Norfolk.

Seago's style is described by Artnet as 

Working in a late Impressionistic style reminiscent of John Singer Sargent, Seago’s work is characterized by its carefully observed color modulation and grounded sense of realism.
The Prince  invited the artist Edward Seago to accompany him in HMY Britannia for the Antarctic and later stages of his 1956/57 World Tour - hence the paintings on board Britannia.

Paintings by Prince Philip

Not many paintings of Prince Philip have been seen in public. Those that have reveal that, like so many of us, they are of subjects associated with daily life or places we visit or have visited.

One of his more famous paintings is of his wife....

The Queen at Breakfast, Windsor Castle (1965) by Prince Phillip

There's something of a history of paintings of the Queen and her family at a meal. This painting echoes Conversation piece at the Royal Lodge, Windsor by Sir James Gunn which is part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. 

I guess the breakfast table enables the sitter to remain engaged with sitting for the artist!

What I'm very impressed by is the fact this is a not unambitious painting - which not many would attempt!

Many of the places he painted are royal homes on land or sea - such as the late royal yacht Britannia (now berthed - very appropriately - in Edinburgh).

Edward Seago - by Prince Philip
painted on board the Royal Yacht Britannia during the Duke’s world tour of 1956-57

Other paintings are of places in Sandringham and Balmoral - both places where the Prince would have the time to both paint and to revisit places and paint over more than one day if time or the weather prevented him from finishing.

It's said that paintings by Prince Philip have pride of place in the Queen's private rooms in Sandringham. 

Since he retired - age 96! - in 2017, he spent most of his time at Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate where, yet gain, he would have the opportunity to paint the scenery of Norfolk.

The Duke of Edinburgh as Designer

The Duke was very keen on design. For example, he sketched out the designs for the new windows for the relocated Private Chapel at Windsor Castle, constructed following the fire which started in the original Private Chapel on the Queen and Prince Philip’s 45th wedding anniversary on November 20 1992

The six-part design for the stained glass windows was sketched out by Prince Philip. 
  • His design had the lower panels to show the wreckage of the fire either side of the dragon — representing evil — being slain by St George.  
  • His detailed design was then handed to glass designer Joseph Nuttgens who brought it to life in dazzling detail as The East Window (6 lights) - on the theme of The Fire - for the Royal Private Chapel. ( see first image top left in the link )

A firefighter depicted in the stained glass window
of the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle
Design by HRH Prince Philip | Stained Glass by Joseph Nuttgens
Credit: John Stillwell/PA

The Duke of Edinburgh as Art Collector

Little is known about his own art collection - other than it includes a lot of paintings by Seago! 

I do very much hope that we get to see those paintings he collected over the years at some point. I have the book which catalogues the Queen Mother's collection and it's absolutely fascinating. I'm sure the Duke's own interests would be reflected in the work he collected

Over the years, Philip amassed an impressive collection of British and Commonwealth art, many of which were by Norfolk artist Edward Seago, who tutored him in the subject. The Duke also collected cartoon drawings, some of which even featured royal occasions. (OK article 2021)

The Prince as Sitter

Finally Prince Philip is, unsurprisingly,  has been a sitter for a number of portraits.
The National Portrait Gallery records him as 
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1921-), Consort of Elizabeth II. Sitter associated with 219 portraits.
although sadly most are formal / official photos.

Sadly, there are just two paintings listed
One rather gets the impression he wasn't too keen on sitting still - unless he was the one doing the painting!


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