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

Watercolour practice sheet c. 1846 - c. 1850

Pencil, watercolour | 45.2 x 30.4 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 981350

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  • A watercolour showing studies of landscapes, trees and colour trials, possibly executed under the tutelage of WL Leitch. Colour trials are shown at the top of the sheet, with a flat landscape shown below to the right. A tree is shown to the left, with a partial view of the sun behind, casting a shadow on the ground. A sunset scene is shown below to the left and a study of a single tree is shown to the right. A pencil study of a landscape with path and trees is shown to the lower left, with a double-pencil-line border shown around the edge of the image.

    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


    45.2 x 30.4 cm (sheet of paper)