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Queen Victoria as a Watercolourist

Victoria was eight years old when she began weekly drawing lessons with the painter Richard Westall. After his death in 1836 she recorded that he was a ʻpatient, agreeable master, & a very worthy manʼ.

Victoria often took those close to her, such as family members and pets (of which she was very fond), as her subjects. Her works also reflect her many enthusiasms. She enjoyed visiting the theatre to see operas and ballets, and often sketched the scenes and actors she admired.

Possibly inspired by the example set by some of her artistic ladies-in-waiting, Victoria was keen to improve her watercolour skills. After a short series of lessons with Edward Lear, she was taught by the Scottish landscape painter William Leighton Leitch for 22 years. Leitch was a thorough teacher, instructing his royal pupil in composition, light, shade and colour, as can be seen in the queen’s own practice sheet (included in this group), accompanied by his detailed instructions on painting a moonlight scene.

Victoria’s early love of painting endured throughout her life – the Royal Collection includes more than 50 sketchbooks and albums filled with her work. She enjoyed painting in nature, sketching frequently on her annual visits to Scotland and travels in Europe. Leitch observed that the widowed queen achieved some solace through her sketchbook and colour box.

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

Eos

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

The Viennoises

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

Arthur

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

Watercolour practice sheet

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

From the railway Monte Rosa

William Leighton Leitch (1804-83)

The Moonlight Lesson