The Queen: Art And Image Exhibition

A new exhibition of portraits of the Queen at the National Portrait Gallery, London is a charming retrospective look at the Queen's public life over the last 60 years. Opened to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, this collection of formal, press photographs and contemporary portraits explores the Queen's relationship with her image and the media.

The exhibition has been organised chronologically by the NPG, with one portrait representing each year of the Queen's reign. Formal portraits by artists including Dorothy Wilding, Lucian Freud and Annie Leibovitz are arranged next to more private observations of this very public figure. The visitor is encouraged to consider how these images have evolved.

Although pearls are a constant throughout the exhibition, there are a number of surprises. Cecil Beaton's iconic portrait of the Queen on her Coronation day in 1953 is still magnificent, but Pietro Annigoni's dramatic image of a monarch in her ceremonial robes (seen here for the first time in over 25 years) is oddly of another time.

Best of all is their contrast with some of the snapped photographs. Patrick Lichfield's joyful picture of the Queen aboard the Royal Yacht, Eve Arnold's glimpse of the Queen sheltering under an umbrella and the anguish caught by Dylan Martinez following the fire at Windsor Castle are as striking as the formal poses.

In comparison, moving through the gallery rooms, more contemporary portraits by Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol and Gilbert and George mainly offer a changing interpretation of this iconic image.

Lightness of Being, by Chris Levine, 2007

One of the highlights undoubtedly is Chris Levine's lightbox entitled 'Lightness of Being', catching the Queen in a meditative moment between exposures. It is a powerful and thoughtful piece.

The Queen: Art & Image exhibition is open at the National Portrait Gallery until 21st October 2012 and is highly recommended if you are visiting central London this summer.