Victoria and Albert: Our lives in Watercolour will include more than 60 works and will offer visitors a fascinating glimpse into Victorian Britain during the time of Victoria and Albert’s marriage. This exhibition also marks the bicentenary of their births in 1819 and through these colourful, dynamic watercolours, visitors will be able to appreciate the pomp and spectacle of the British court, foreign travel and diplomacy, the exploration and shaping of a modern nation and, importantly, the close-knit family at the heart of it all.
These watercolours reveal the royal couple’s private passion for documenting their lives together. Victoria and Albert’s enthusiasm for watercolour painting inspired them to form a collection of thousands and they often spent happy evenings together organising their acquisitions into albums.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were married on 10 February 1840 and over the following two decades – before Albert’s death in 1861– produced nine children. Consequently, home and family were important themes in the couple’s life and the exhibition explores them in a series of images that juxtapose the grandeur of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, as seen in Caleb Robert Stanley’s The garden front of Buckingham Palace (1839) and Joseph Nash’s Queen Victoria’s Bedroom, Windsor Castle (1847), with Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s depictions of Victoria, Princess Royal, and Princess Alice in 18th Century costume (1850), individual portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (both 1855) and Sir William Ross’ playful 1847 watercolour Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and Prince Alfred. A tender portrait of Arthur (1853) as a toddler by the Queen herself reveals much of her own devotion and maternal love towards her children.
Almost echoing the royal progresses of earlier centuries and reigns, Victoria and Albert travelled extensively throughout the United Kingdom and the exhibition bears testimony to their great popularity as a couple – in watercolours such as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert landing at St Pierre, Guernsey (1846) by Paul Jacob Naftel.
Another important facet of the Victorian era, which still resonates today, is the love of spectacle and public events. From the Great Exhibition to the funeral of the Duke of Wellington, to the opening of Parliament and Scots Fusilier Guards hoisting their bearskins in the air as they bid farewell to Queen Victoria before setting sail for the Black Sea, an appreciation for pomp and circumstance is explored.
The exhibition also features watercolours depicting Victoria and Albert’s overseas visits. During Queen Victoria’s reign, Britain’s relations with Germany and France were generally strong, bolstered by the royal family’s own ties with its neighbouring states’ rulers The entry of Queen Victoria into Paris (1855) by Adolphe-Jean-Baptiste Bayot and Adrien Dauzats shows great crowds welcoming her with cheers and hats held aloft.
Julie Milne, Chief Curator of Art Galleries at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums said “We are delighted to host an exhibition throughout the summer of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s cherished watercolour collection from the Royal Collection, in celebration of the bicentenary of their births. The paintings provide a fascinating insight into the public and private lives of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert through a variety of beautiful, intricate watercolour works which we hope many of our visitors will enjoy.”
To find out more and for booking details, visit: laingartgallery.org.uk