Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm a Celebrity

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm a Celebrity

Article excerpt


PAPARAZZI photographs tell us who is hot and who is doing what.

Towards the end of the 18th century, a rapid increase in newspapers and magazines fuelled public interest in national and international affairs.

Portraits - painted, then engraved for mass consumption - made personalities come alive. Public fascination was not only with the home life of royalty and emperors, but also with famous actresses, flamboyant prostitutes, soldiers, explorers - even the painters themselves.

During 1760 to 1830 (the period of Citizens and Kings at the Royal Academy), the cult of celebrity was born. Unless someone famous painted you, you were nobody.

This exhibition gives a tour of who-was-who - and how they wanted to be seen. From Napoleon, swathed in Imperial regalia bulky enough to stand up on its own, to George IV in a coronation ensemble that veers towards panto, there are many images of the rich and titled. But the new spirit of Enlightenment that was sweeping through Europe at the time meant that relaxation, in pose and setting, was becoming the norm. A perfect example is Queen Charlotte and her Two Eldest Sons by Johann Zoffany.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg came to England in 1761, aged 17, to marry George III - whom she had never seen.

She met him in the afternoon and they married that night. A year later, he bought Buckingham House for her.

In 1764, Zoffany painted her in her dressing room, with her two sons, princes George and Frederick. George (age three) is a Roman warrior; his tot of a brother an oriental emperor (who, even so, clutches his mother's silvery silk knee). On a red velvet chair, the future George IV has tossed his drum.

Astonishingly, for the time, we see the pretty Queen's lace-smothered dressing table, with her gold cosmetics bottles set out; while an open door shows more of the palace.

This informal portrait is an accurate reflection of the approachable royalty that George III created. …

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