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The Exhibition

Queen Victoria (r.1837–1901) and her husband Prince Albert spent many quiet evenings together compiling albums of watercolours, prints and photographs. Among these were nine volumes that Victoria described as ʻMy valuable Albums ... containing most beautiful water color paintings by the first Artists, and some by Amateurs, collected by my beloved Husband & myself, and representing the different places we visited & scenes of our life etc.’ Many of the works in this exhibition were originally arranged in these very personal albums.

The royal couple collected watercolours in different ways – direct commissions from artists, purchases at exhibitions, presents exchanged for birthdays or at Christmas, and gifts from others. The queen and prince were proficient amateur artists themselves, and Victoria took watercolour lessons from some of the artists whose works they acquired. While Albert, in particular, engaged eagerly with the newly emerging technology of photography, that art form was not yet able to capture events with the same vivacity as watercolour.

These watercolours give us an insight into the public and private lives of Victoria and Albert, at home and abroad. They capture the pomp and spectacle of the British court, the shaping of a modern nation, and the close-knit family at the heart of it all.

Explore the Exhibition

Objects on display

Discover every artwork in Victoria and Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour, grouped thematically

Home and Family

Watercolour views of the Royal Family and the royal residences

Osborne House

Victoria and Albert's 'little Paradise' on the Isle of Wight

Edinburgh and the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Scotland's capital city and palace 'made a great impression' on the royal couple

Balmoral Castle

Many artists were invited to record life at the idyllic Highland retreat

Travelling the Kingdom

Public and private royal visits across Britain and Ireland

Germany, Albert’s Homeland

Victoria and Albert travelled to Germany together three times, to sightsee and to visit family

France

Albert had travelled in his youth, but with him in 1843, Victoria made her first trip abroad

The Crimean War (1853–6)

The royal couple collected many watercolours relating to the war and its aftermath

Ceremonial and Spectacle

The period of Victoria and Albert's marriage saw them engage with many significant public events

The Great Exhibition of 1851

Albert was instrumental in organising the first 'world fair'

Memorialising Albert

Following Albert's death, Victoria dedicated much of her time and patronage to his memory

Queen Victoria as a Watercolourist

Victoria trained from an early age and had a wide range of subjects