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Queen Victoria as a watercolourist

Queen Victoria was eight years old when she began weekly drawing lessons with teh portrait and history painter Richard Westall. After his death in 1836 she recorded that he was a 'patient, agreeable master, & a very worthy man'.

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. As Princess and then Queen she enjoyed visiting the theatre to see operas and ballets, and often sketched the scenes and actors she admired.

Queen Victoria was keen to improve her watercolour skills, possibly inspired by some of her artistic ladies-in-waiting. 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, accompanied by his detailed instructions on painting a moonlight scene.

Victoria’s early love of painting endured throughout her life – the Royal Collection includes over 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 noted that the widowed Queen achieved some solace through her sketchbook and colour box.