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Practice Sheets

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 took place at Windsor Castle on 30 September 1846. It was around this time that Leitch produced a number of watercolour demonstration sheets from which Queen Victoria could learn, by copying individual elements (such as the sheet reproduced below). 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 the sheets displayed to the right. 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 a sketch in Leitch’s studio he declared of the artist: ‘she paints too well for an amateur. She will be soon entering the ranks as a professional artist’, although he did not know that the artist was the Queen.