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Book Review: Portrait of the Artist-A Royal Collection Trust Publication

Updated on November 14, 2016
FrancesSpiegel profile image

Frances has many years' experience writing travel articles and reviewing art galleries, museums, and the books they publish.

Portrait of the Artist - A Royal Collection Trust Publication

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) c. 1638, featured on the Front Cover of Portrait of the Artist. Copyright image by Royal Collection Trust, all rights reserved.
Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) c. 1638, featured on the Front Cover of Portrait of the Artist. Copyright image by Royal Collection Trust, all rights reserved.

Portrait of the Artist by Anna Reynolds, Lucy Peter and Martin Clayton

The Royal Collection Trust published Portrait of the Artist to coincide with the opening of an exhibition of the same name at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

Featuring more than 150 images together with lively and informative texts, this is the first publication dedicated to images of artists held in the Royal Collection.

The Royal Trust Collection is especially rich in images of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century artists. This is due mainly to the tastes of the collectors. According to Reynolds and Peter, “there are no artists with the scowling or brooding expressions that characterised many self-portraits of the Romantic period (and persists today.)” We learn that most of the portraits show the artists not as rebels but as conformists. The authors describe the artists as “happy citizens – not tortured souls”.

This lavish fully-illustrated publication features a captivating array of paintings and drawings, photographs and decorative arts by a wide variety of artists including Rembrandt, Rubens, Gentileschi, Dürer, Vermeer, Reynolds, Freud, Hockney and many more.

Show-casing self-portraits of world-famous artists, the book also includes portraits of artists by their friends and pupils. One of the highlights of both exhibition and catalogue is a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci by his pupil Francesco Melzi. The red chalk drawing is believed to be the most reliable surviving likeness of Leonardo.

Leonardo da Vinci by Francesco Melzi

Leonardo da Vinci by Francesco Melzi, c. 1515-1518. Copyright image by Frances Spiegel with permission from Royal Collection Trust, all rights reserved.
Leonardo da Vinci by Francesco Melzi, c. 1515-1518. Copyright image by Frances Spiegel with permission from Royal Collection Trust, all rights reserved.

Authors of the Publication

Authors of this publication and curators of the exhibition are Anna Reynolds, Senior Curator of Paintings, Lucy Peter, Assistant Curator of Paintings, and Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, all at the Royal Collection Trust. Additional contributions are provided by Alessandro Nasini, Niko Munz and Sally Goodsir.


Portrait of the Artist - Layout of the Publication

The book is set out in four main sections in which the authors take a fascinating look at portraits of artists held in the Royal Collection, one of the world's finest artist collections.

  1. Producing and Collecting Portraits of Artists - Anna Reynolds and Lucy Peter

  2. The Artist at Work - Lucy Peter

  3. Playing a Role - Anna Reynolds

  4. The Cult of the Artist - Anna Reynolds

Portrait of the Artist examines a number of themes including the cult of the artist and the symbolism evoked through representations of the artist's studio. The authors explore a number of questions. What was the role of the monarchs and what were their motives when commissioning and displaying portraits? How did the status of artists change over the centuries and how is this shown in their work?


Portrait of the Artist - More Than Just an Art History Book

This is not just a book about art and artists. The authors take us beneath the artist's skin as they look at vital elements in the story of portraiture. Scholarly and highly enjoyable texts are accompanied by superb photography in this extremely high-quality publication. Portrait of the Artist is an excellent resource for scholars, students, and anyone simply interested in beautiful works of art.

Portrait of the Artist, ISBN: 978 1 909741 32 4, is available from the Royal Collection Trust and all good book stores. The exhibition is open at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from 4th November 2016 to 17th April 2017.

Portrait of the Artist by Anna Reynolds, Lucy Peter and Martin Clayton

© 2016 Frances Spiegel

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    • FrancesSpiegel profile image
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      Frances Spiegel 16 months ago from Wembley UK

      Thank you for reading.

    • Frances Metcalfe profile image

      Frances Metcalfe 16 months ago from The Limousin, France

      Lovely to read an art book review. I bought a book of Chinese watercolours for my partner at Christmas which is a wonderful book to flip through.

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