The largest exhibition to date of paintings by Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, is currently on display in London. It can be seen in the Garrison Chapel in the former Chelsea Barracks through February 14, and it has 79 watercolors of landscapes in England, Scotland, France, Tanzania and more, reports Laura Elston for Scots.
The Prince’s Foundation, an educational charity established by Charles in 1986, organized the exhibition, which is described in a statement as the first “full exhibition” of his artwork. Charles previously exhibited 50 of his watercolors at Hampton Court Palace in 1998 and 30 at the National Gallery of Australia in 2018.
In weight text written for the exhibition and quoted in the statement, Charles explains how watercolor painting enables him to refocus his energies:
[Y]You become more and more aware of things that may have escaped your attention in the past – things like the quality of light and shadow, of tone and texture and of the shape of buildings in relation to the landscape. It all requires the most intense concentration and is therefore one of the most relaxing and therapeutic exercises I know.
According to Theo Farrant of Euronews, the prince began experimenting with the medium in the 1970s after realizing that photography – a hobby for his mother, Elizabeth II – did not give him the same sense of creative expression.
“Quite simply, I experienced an overwhelming urge to express what I saw through the watercolor medium and convey the almost ‘inner’ feeling of texture that is impossible to achieve through photography,” says the king in the weight text.
Robert Waddell, an art teacher at Gordonstoun Boarding School in Scotland, introduced Charles to painting during his years of study in the 1960s. The prince later discussed technique with the late British aquarist Edward Seago and took lessons with prominent artists Derek Hill, John Ward and Bryan Organ, which Lucy Davies reported for Telegraph in 2018.
Although Charles says he is “shaken” by the quality of his earlier works, he believes his technique has improved over the years. At the same time, the prince argues that the therapeutic benefits of watercolor painting far outweigh any notion that his art can be of high quality.
“I am not under any illusion that my sketches represent great art or a budding talent,” he writes in the weight text. “They represent more than anything else my particular kind of ‘photo album’ and as such mean a great deal to me.”
Charles is a self-described “enthusiastic amateur” and is in fact one of the most financially successful living artists in the United Kingdom. Between 1997 and 2016, a study was conducted by TelegraphRobert Mendick found that prints of the prince’s paintings sold for a total of more than £ 6 million (about $ 8.9 million today). All proceeds went to the Prince’s Foundation, which supports a number of charitable efforts.
Other British royals have previously engaged in artistic pursuits. In 2015, Charles’ niece, Princess Eugenie, joined the Hauser & Wirth Gallery as Art Director. She has shared several of her own watercolors on her Instagram account, including a painting of a pink flower at World Art Day in 2020, Stephanie Petit reports for People. Queen Victoria, Charles’ great-great-grandmother, was also a well-known watercolor painter. Last year, the Royal Collection Trust displayed a range of watercolors collected and commissioned by the Queen and her husband, Prince Albert.
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