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Sir Samuel Luke Fildes (1843-1927)

King George V (1865-1936) 1911-12

Oil on canvas | 279.8 x 183.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 402023

Blue Drawing Room, Buckingham Palace

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  • This is the State portrait of King George V by Luke Fildes. The commission to the artist had pleased the King. He had been painted by him at the time of his marriage (RCIN 402297); he admired what the artist had done for the late King; and liked the artist personally: 'we get on very well together, and I would like him to do it if he will '. It proved a difficult commission; the King was not able to give many sittings; the artist had difficulty getting access to the King's uniform and medals (LV Fildes, 1968, pp 192-6); and the King was in India from November 1911 until Feb 1912. Soon after his return the King saw Fildes and gave him sittings on 19 and 15 March and 13 and 25 May, on the last two occasions in the artist's studio. During sittings the morning papers were read to the King. Queen Mary, in her Diary, wrote that on 2 June 1912 she went with the King to Fildes's studio to see his state portrait. It is a very good picture'. The finished portrait, for which the artist received £1000, was exhibited at the RA in 1912 (148).

    The image of the King clearly derives from the imposing state portraits of George III and IV by Ramsay and Lawrence (RCINs 405307, 405918), in which the crown is set on a stool to the side and the monarch is wearing coronation robes with a backdrop of a dramatic curtain. However, in contrast to Fildes’ portrait of Edward VII, the King appears smaller and more reserved, the positioning of his sword towards the ground imbuing him with a more tempered attitude, less flamboyant than his father.

    Fildes was commissioned to paint a replica for Liverpool City Corporation, however the commission proved difficult as the Corporation hoped that Fildes would produce a variation on the State portrait (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 7027). A replica is in the Parliamentary Art Collection, 1913; and a reduced copy in the Royal Hospital Chelsea, (No. 801, 214 x 150 cm). Numerous copies were made of this official image of the King for embassies, institutions and clubs throughout the Empire.

    The State portrait of Queen Mary was painted by Sir William Henry Llewellyn (RCIN 402024); the intention being that both portraits could be exhibited at the Royal Academy in the same year.

    Provenance

    Commissioned by King George V

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    279.8 x 183.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

  • Category
    Object type(s)