The First Georgians - Art &Monarchy, 1714-1760, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace; 11 April - 12 October 2014
The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace has put together a wealth of information in the shape of letters, paintings, maps and works of art to portray the world of Georgian England. In 1714 Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover in Germany became King George I, the country’s first constitutional monarch and this exhibition marks the 300th anniversary of his succession.
The exhibition opens with a stunning oil painting of George I, King of Great Britain and Ireland, whose claim to the throne was legitimate but he was only 50th in line and was chosen for his religion. He is presented as a Roman soldier, in full armour, a symbol of peace and prosperity. The many letters and maps that are displayed include Johannes Kip’s “View and Perspective of London, Westminster and St James Park. It paints a splendid panaroma of London in 1715 and shows the royal residences of St James Palace and George I with his children in carriages. Medals commemorating the Battle of Culloden and designed by Richard Yeo are on display as is a portrait of the Duke of Cumberland; an important and seasoned soldier in the city’s history who was admired for his courage.
A section of the exhibition is devoted to William Hogarth, a brilliant satirist and the man instrumental in starting printmaking in Eighteeth century England. He set up an independent copper plate engraving company, undertaking small commissions such as shop cards or book illustrations. Much of his work was based on modern moral subjects and he had a fascination with life in the city. He eventually had 240 subscribers and became immensely popular. We see also the beautiful furniture that was being made such as a pair of magnificent James Moore Pier stands and a table with the cipher GR meaning Georgious Rex in prominent display.
Some stunning paintings are on display including Trophine Bigot’s “Christ in the Carpenter’s shop” which was in the style of Caravaggio and which restates the biblical story in a modern scene. The oil lamp in the painting suggests the light of the world and the luminous, beautiful quality of the carpenter’s face and his wife’s is radiant against the black of the chosen background. A room full of beautiful miniatures can be seen, most of which are in perfect condition as is a room of decorative plates.. The William Kent frame surrounding the painting by Rubens of “The Holy family with St Francis” is unbelievably intricate; details of acorns running down the each side of the painting. It is a world of ornate but discreet splendour with other decorative objects to be seen such as rifles, snuff boxes, gold boxes and so on. The rapid growth of the luxury industry in the Georgian period can be felt. In Philip Mercier’s painting of “A music party” we see Frederick, prince of Wales playing music with his sisters. Here a down to earth new version of the royal family is depicted: a boy with his family engaged in the arts. It shows a Georgian royal family that has managed to integrate itself into British society. The enormous painting entitled “St James’ Park and the Mall”, portrays a country setting where princes walk in public parks rubbing shoulders with other people of many race, rank and sex. It is of immense interest and opens insight into the world of Georgian London. The new bourgeois society shows husband and wife to be equal seen also in the lively, cheerful Hogarth painting of Garrick and his wife, Eva Maria Veigel. We see Mrs Veigel tiptoeing behind her husband with the hope of snatcing away his pen. There are two astounding Canaletto’s in the exhibition which for me formed the highlight of the show. Both are of scenes of London and the Thames; both are stunning and accurate portrayals of the city as seen by the artist. The immediacy of his work is attesting.
All shapes and forms of life in the setting of Georgian England and London are conveyed in this eclectic and thought provoking exhibition. It is well worth a visit.
Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor, Visitmuseums.com