Prince Charles has always devoted himself to the solitary joys of painting, and especially watercolours. Each week, Stéphane Bern deciphers the royal news with a new appointment: Côté Cours.
How to wait on the steps of the throne as the United Kingdom prepares to celebrate the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II? At 73, the heir to the British Crown, Charles, Prince of Wales, puts all his talents at the service of noble causes and shows, at the same time, all the palettes of his personality. Prince Charles has always devoted himself to the solitary joys of painting, and especially watercolours. He had already published about twenty years ago a collection of his “watercolors” for the benefit of his charities and had also illustrated his book on architecture “A vision of Britain”. An artistic passion that he shares with Winston Churchill, but also with his grandmother Queen Victoria, and that his father, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh passed on to him. Unlike his father who kept this Ingres violin for the privacy of his private apartments, the heir to the crown presents his works to the public and exhibits in London no less than 79 watercolors in the elegant setting of a chapel. renovated from the 19th century.
This is the largest exhibition of his works to date. For nearly fifty years, the Prince of Wales has set up his easel in places where he enjoys the beauty and tranquility, and takes out his brushes and his colors to paint the landscapes of Scotland, the yacht Britannia, the Isles of Scilly, the riches heritage of royal residences… His travels are also an inexhaustible source of inspiration for him, from the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland to the Kalahari desert, from the hills of Tuscany to Mount Athos in Greece, without forgetting our Provence where photographers had one day surprised in full artistic creation. “The prince places his easel in the open air and often finishes his canvas in one go. He sometimes paints in the mountains during ski holidays and even during official trips when his schedule allows it, ”explained the spokesperson for Clarence House. In 2004, he even created the label for Château Mouton Rothschild wine bottles to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale.
He chose the watercolors from the exhibition
It was Charles himself who personally selected from his works the watercolors for the exhibition, presented by place and country, until February 14. We thus travel there from the snow-covered Scottish moors to Wales, from the laces of Montmirail in Provence to Mount Athos in Greece, without forgetting Romanian Transylvania where the prince bought properties to restore to bring villages back to life. The prince’s brushes have also immortalized the snow-capped mountains of Klosters and Saint-Moritz in Switzerland, or even the Château du Barroux in the south of France. But it is in Scotland in particular that the prince likes to recharge his batteries and, when he is not fishing for salmon in the River Dee, he immortalizes the munro Beinn a’Bhuird, from the Cairngorm mountain range, painted many times on different times of the year and always from changing angles. In his presentation of his exhibition at the Garrison Chapel in London’s Belgravia, the Prince of Wales explains that he “chose the watercolor because he found the photo unsatisfactory…
It requires the most intense concentration and is therefore one of the most relaxing and therapeutic exercises I know,” he adds. “It transports me to another dimension, which refreshes certain parts of the soul that other activities cannot reach”. Despite his undeniable talent in a kingdom of great travelers and a tradition of English watercolors, Prince Charles is modest. “I have no illusions about their quality, but they represent my particular form of photographic album, and as such, are very important to me”. According to Rosie Alderton, the curator of the exhibition, “Prince Charles comes from a line of artists”, since before him there was Queen Victoria who left many watercolors and drawings, or Prince Philip who introduced him to oil painting. Over the years, the heir to the throne found time to paint 680 watercolours, sometimes signed AG Carrick, a pseudonym created from the initials of two of his other first names Arthur and George, and his title Earl of Carrick. On the other hand, no original watercolor of Prince Charles has ever been for sale, even if some, reproduced in the form of lithography, can reach thousands of pounds sterling on the internet. A few lithographs are also sold on his Highgrove estate. And all proceeds from sales are donated to the Prince’s Foundation, which organized the exhibition, or to his other charities, such as the Prince’s Trust. This princely hobby can also pay off big! According to the very serious “Daily Telegraph”, the sale of copies of his watercolors has brought him since 1997… 6 million pounds sterling, or 7.8 million euros. Today, depending on your budget, you can buy a lithograph or a reproduction of a watercolor of the prince for the “modest” sum of 2,500 pounds or 3,280 euros. But it can go much higher, up to 20,000 euros. This is as much money for the social actions of Prince Charles who helps young people in difficulty through his charitable foundation “The Prince’s Trust”.
It was the owner of the Belgravia gallery in London, Anna Hunter, who, after spotting the works of the heir to the Crown in a magazine, was the first to exhibit them in the late 1980s. Prince Charles had already been exhibited at Hampton Court Palace in 1998, on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday, and thirty others in 2018 by the National Gallery of Australia for his seventieth birthday. Since 2019, monopolized by his royal occupations, especially since Queen Elizabeth II is confined to Windsor Castle and no longer travels much, the prince has hardly had time to devote to his watercolors. Will he have to give up this princely hobby when he becomes king? “I hope so,” says Rosie Alderton again, “because her works are really charming.” But there is more than one politician in London who hopes that this princely derivative will divert him a little from Charles’s mania for writing incessant letters to the various ministries to alert them to the difficulties encountered by his future subjects…
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