Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (1900 - 2002) 1987

Robert Norman Hepple (1908–1994)

Portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (1900 - 2002), Robert Norman Hepple
Oil on canvas
20th Century
24 x 20 inches 60.8 x 50.7 cm
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The present head and shoulders portrait is a study for the three-quarter-length portrait commissioned by Lloyd’s of London in 1987. This depicts the Queen Mother sitting in an armchair in a Drawing Room of Clarence House. A related chalk drawing was exhibited at Spink in 1987.

Hepple was a popular portraitist with members of the Royal Family, and works such as this show that he was able to achieve a remarkable rapport with his sitters. There is an informality and an ease in the handling which does not compromise the dignity of the subject. Hepple painted the Queen Mother for four separate commissions, although he worked on the latter two (including the Lloyd’s portrait) simultaneously to avoid taxing the subject (Times Obituary January 11th 1994).

Hepple was a particular favourite of the Queen, and he is reported to have remarked that her sittings to him were ''worth it, for the conversation alone.'' Hepple painted members of the Royal Family on numerous occasions, and in addition to this portrait of the Queen Mother painted notable images of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen and the Princess Royal.

Hepple came from an artistic dynasty -both his father and uncle were painters - and first achieved recognition with his Self Portrait as a soldier (1926) which was accepted by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in that year. This painting in which the artist shows himself in a steel helmet and army uniform appears at first to be a particularly insightful and moving document of the Great War, but is in fact an effective piece of theatre, as the painter was a civilian who knew that the uniform would give his painting an impact attainable by no other guise.

During the Second World War Hepple was attached as official artist to the Fire Brigade, and produced a number of dramatic canvases that are in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, London.

In 1961 he was elected to the Royal Academy. Failing eyesight ended his career late in life, and tragically he met his death in a road accident returning from an election at the Royal Academy.

His paintings are conspicuous not least for the variation in styles with which he experimented. The present portrait reveals a conspicuous debt to Gainsborough - and might almost be regarded as a homage - with its broad brushing of the background and witty employment of the archaic feigned oval.
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