Beautiful Portrait, ‘The Queen’

Damien Hirst (1965 - )

Household gloss paint on canvas


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© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2015

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  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall

    At the heart of Beautiful Portrait, ‘The Queen’, one of Damien Hirst’s spin paintings, is an iconic portrait of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. Derived from an official photograph, it has an air of relaxed informality as the Queen looks to the side with a smile. Placing a royal portrait against the colourful clash of a spin painting, Hirst unites tradition and the contemporary in one vibrant image. He made his first spin paintings in 1994, by which time he was known as one of the most famous ‘Young British Artists’, gaining a reputation as the enfant terrible of British art. He produced the spin paintings by putting large circular canvases onto a rotating turntable on which paint and turpentine were flung, dropped and poured. This work is a contemporary take on those earlier versions, capturing a sense and energy of time and speed. Writing in the 2012 catalogue of the Tate’s major exhibition, Damien Hirst, curator Andrew Wilson described the spin paintings as: ‘… memorials to the death of experience – memories of fleeting moments of immediacy and intensity that have passed.’

    Hirst’s first spin portraits were images of skulls that gradually evolved into portraits of well-known living figures. His first spin portrait was of Barack Obama, followed by representations of Jim Morrison and Sheikha Mozah among others. 

    Hirst donated Beautiful Portrait, ‘The Queen’ to the Government Art Collection in 2015 on behalf of Victim, a charitable trust established by the artist which supports children’s causes including health, disabilities and education, along with supporting the work of a charity that works towards the survival of indigenous communities around the world.
  • About the artist
    Damien Hirst was born in Bristol in 1965 and grew up in Leeds. He attended Goldsmiths College in London from 1986-1989 and curated a legendary exhibition in a disused warehouse entitled Freeze. The success of the exhibition led the artists involved to become known as YBAs or Young British Artists. Hirst was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1992, and won the award when he was nominated again in 1995. Hirst’s tiger shark immersed in formaldehyde became the iconic work of the 1990s and a symbol of British art worldwide. It was included in the ‘Sensation’ exhibition held at the Royal Academy of Art in 1997, which toured to New York and Berlin. In 2008 he took the unprecedented step of selling all the works from one of his shows at auction.
  • Explore
    Elizabeth II
    Materials & Techniques
    canvas, household gloss paint, oil painting
  • Details
    Beautiful Portrait, ‘The Queen’
    Household gloss paint on canvas
    diameter: 152.40 cm, depth: 7.30 cm
    Presented March 2015 by Victim, a charity founded by the artist Damien Hirst
    verso (canvas), upper right: Damien Hirst ; lower right: Beautiful / portrait / 'The Queen' ; lower left: 2014 ; verso (stretcher bar): D Hirst
    presented March 2015 by Victim, a charity founded by the artist Damien Hirst
    GAC number