The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy 1714-1760, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, until 12 October 2014
This exhibition celebrates the three hundredth anniversary of the Hanoverian succession to the British throne in 1714 and what a story it tells looking at the reigns of George I (r.1714-27) and his son George II (r.1727-60) it also reveals the somewhat problematical relationship both Kings had with their heirs.
Over three hundred works from the Royal Collection are used to tell the tale, including the Jacobite claims from the ‘Old’ and ‘Young Pretender’ which culminated in the battle of Culloden in 1746. This is told through battle plans and military maps and includes a draft order of battle for Culloden which is thought to have been made by the Duke of Cumberland, George II’s son who led his troops to victory.
George I favoured Kensington Palace as a residence and employed William Kent to decorate a series of State Rooms which the King had furnished with the best examples of British furniture and Old Master paintings. George II’s son Frederick Prince of Wales was also a collector of Old Master paintings and his purchases included Guido Reni’s Cleopatra with the Asp, c.1628. He also liked to entertain and the spectacular marine service by Paul Crespin and Nicholas Sprimont was made for use at his table. Frederick’s mother Queen Caroline was without doubt the dynasty’s most intellectual member and her interests in art, gardening and genealogy is revealed here.
An important development in 18th century British cultural life was the slow move away from Court patronage as artists were able to achieve fame and success without the support of a royal patron. Satire, whether written or depicted became a favourite weapon ridiculing public taste and the emerging new leisure class provided good subject matter.
There was an increasing demand for luxury items which drove British commercial enterprise to new heights and saw the development of such new enterprises as the Chelsea porcelain works which competed with the German Meissen factory, and whose products are still eagerly sought after today.
It really is a fascinating, wide-ranging exhibition which not only celebrates the first two Georges but also shows how it was the time when Britain started to become a cosmopolitan, liberal society, which embraced commerce, freedom of both expression and the exchange of ideas. So definitely worth commemorating!