The V&A Museum’s touring exhibition of Sir Cecil Beaton’s photographs of the Queen at Norwich Castle gives visitors a truly engaging look at the relationship between our monarch and her photographer.
It is a small exhibition, divided into four sections of Queen Elizabeth’s life as seen largely through photography, as well as letters and diary entries.
The first section, of the Queen when she was a princess, is both beautiful and nostalgic, featuring photographs of the Queen with her sister and mother, as well as solo pictures in which she wears flowing gowns in flowering gardens reminiscent of films of the time.
There is also a screen on which clips of important events from the Queen’s life and a documentary about the life of Cecil Beaton (created by David Bailey) are played. This supplements the other sections of the exhibition wonderfully through the sound alone.
From here, you move through Elizabeth’s reign from the very beginining; from a section devoted to the official coronation photographs, to the more intimate photographs of the Queen with her children, and a final one of the last photographs of the Queen taken by Cecil Beaton.
Throughout the exhibition you can see how Beaton’s style and attitudes towards the public image of the Queen changed – from seeing her as an almost Disney-like princess, through to the photographs of 1968, which are both minimalist and more informal as the Queen poses standing or sitting in rooms at Buckingham Palace.
Part of the exhibition also explores the life of Cecil Beaton, who was employed as a royal photographer from 1939 when he was commissioned to take pictures of the Queen mother.
Through photographs of the photographer as well as the photographs that he took, visitors are guided through his life, techniques and inspirations.
This exhibition is a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at the role of the Queen for a large part of her reign, set out in a way