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Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-1901)

Watercolour practice sheet c. 1846 - c. 1850

Pencil, watercolour | 30.4 x 45.5 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 981349

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  • A watercolour showing coastal landscapes and studies of trees, possibly executed under the tutelage of WL Leitch. A coastal landscape is shown to the lower right. The sea is shown in the foreground, with two sailing boats shown on the water in the centre. Trees are shown on the coastline to the right and further coastline and boats are shown in the background. A seascape is shown above, with loose boats shown against a setting sky. A mountain landscape is shown in the upper study, with pencil lines on either side. A study of two trees is shown to the left, surrounded by cross-hatched patches.

    From the age of eight Queen Victoria received regular lessons in drawing and watercolour from professional artists including Richard Westall (1765–1836) and Edward Lear (1812–88). However, it was the Scottish landscape painter William Leighton Leitch (1804–83) with whom she had the most enduring relationship, as he taught her for 22 years. Before teaching Queen Victoria, Leitch had established an impressive reputation as an art tutor, with his pupils including the Duchess of Buccleuch, the Duchess of Sutherland and Queen Victoria’s lady-in-waiting Charlotte Canning.

    Queen Victoria’s first lesson with Leitch seems to have take place on 30 September 1846. It was around this time that Leitch produced a number of watercolour demonstration sheets from which Queen Victoria could learn and copy individual elements (such as RCIN 923617). In these Leitch explained how to create a wide variety of different shades from the three primary colours. Queen Victoria’s attempt at following Leitch’s example can be seen in this sheet. Leitch’s tutoring was intended to be comprehensive, aiming to explain ‘all the elements of art – the composition, of light, and shade, and colour…’.

    Queen Victoria was an enthusiastic pupil and was delighted by Leitch’s teaching method, exclaiming: ‘This is wonderful, and I am delighted; but I am surprised that I have never had this explained before.’ Leitch’s tuition enabled the Queen to develop into a talented painter in watercolour. When the artist Clarkson Stanfield (1793–1867) saw one of the Queen’s sketches in Leitch’s studio he declared: ‘she paints too well for an amateur. She will be soon entering the ranks as a professional artist’, although he did not know the identity of the artist.
  • Medium and techniques

    Pencil, watercolour


    30.4 x 45.5 cm (sheet of paper)