“The Man & the Monarch” – Sir Edwin Henry Landseer unveiled @ Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian
Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) is synonymous with the powerful depiction of animals, from Queen Victoria’s hounds and horses to lions and polar bears. However, more than any other animal, the Highland Red Deer is most associated with his art, notably ‘The Monarch of the Glen’, painted in 1851.
This majestic portrayal of a royal stag against the moody backdrop of misty mountain peaks led to numerous reproductions, engravings and marketing images from whisky to shortbread and even butter, spreading the image worldwide.
This iconic image of Scotland’s wild, natural landscape encapsulates its sense of tradition, heritage and romance. As one critic noted, ‘Landseer may be said to have mastered other animals, but the deer mastered him”.
Having been on loan for seventeen years to the National Gallery of Scotland, in 2016 the owners Diageo, decided to put the painting up for auction through Christie’s, which sparked the very real threat of a sale to an overseas gallery or collector.
Following an urgent appeal by the NGS to save the Monarch for the nation, Diageo agreed a partnership deal offering a £4 million purchase price, half its market value. Financial support came from Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund, Scottish Governnent, private trusts and an international fundraising campaign (#loveitdeerly), with generous donations from art lovers around the world.
On 17 March 2017, it was announced that Landseer’s famous Stag had been secured, now in public ownership to remain in the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Scotland.
To celebrate this extraordinary painting, an exhibition entitled “The Man and the Monarch” is on display throughout April in a pop up gallery at the Peacock Alley, the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, The Caledonian.
The Art Consultancy firm, Artiq advises on and selects works of art for private homes and public spaces. Companies and clients can also lease artworks on a regular revolving basis. It is the perfect opportunity for restaurants and hotels to enhance ambience and decor for the benefit of guests: “In the hospitality industry, a great piece of art can leave a lasting impression and resonate on a deeper level than any other aspect of design or service.” Hotels which have collaborated with Artiq on art collections include London Heathrow, Marriott, and Gleneagles, Perthshire.
Kate Terres, an Art Consultant from Artiq, is the enthusiastic curator behind this fascinating showcase of prints, photographs and portraits with works by Landseer, John Ballantyne, Albert Mendelssohn and eclectic range of contemporary artists.
A stunning, stark photograph is “White Stag” by Kristian Bell. Perhaps snapped at dusk, the pure white of its coat illuminates the soft tones of green and brown foliage with the two central deer staring directly at the lens.
As Kristian explains “I had heard a few rumours of a white stag hanging around the Arne RSPB in Dorset so was pretty pleased when we came across a group of deer including two white stags…. they were flighty and this was the closest I could get.”
The award winning London-based German artist, Alma Haser specializes in carefully constructed portraits using imaginative paper-folding techniques which distorts the face, Picasso-esque style, such as in her series Cosmic Surgery.
“I hope that people find them beautiful but at the same time are taken aback because they are so awkward and weird. I just want them to look closer.” Alma Haser
Haser also alters the shape of a head and facial expression with decorative adornments in a series entitled Brainstorm, and here you can see her powerfully enigmatic portrait “Thistle Face,” showing a man’s face obscured by the flower of Scotland. Landseer suffered bouts of depression throughout his life and this vibrant image of sharp, spiky leaves and purple tone, subtlely reflects the blocked mind and dark thoughts of mental illness.
To complement a fine print of “The Monarch of the Glen” itself, there is also “Scene in Braemar – Highland Deer”. In 1888, this Landseer painting was purchased at Christie’s for 4,950 guineas by Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, remaining in the family, (on loan to the National Gallery of Dublin) until sold to a private collector over a century later. The dramatic painting, nearly 9ft high, portrays the artist’s most familiar subject, the Red Stag, surrounded by young fawns and a cute little hare with a soaring eagle overhead against menacing grey storm clouds.
This small yet comprehensive exhibtion captures the essential spirit of Landseer’s life and work: a violent scene of eagles attacking three swans, portraits and photographs which illustrate his close association with Queen Victoria (who commissioned numerous pictures), and his epic project to model the lion sculptures for Trafalgar Square.
It would have been fantastic to have also included a print of Sir Peter Blake’s own striking interpretation, “After The Monarch of the Glen” (1966), hanging side by side Peter Saville’s dynamic tapestry, “After, After, After The Monarch of the Glen,” (2012).
Within the former Caledonian Station concourse, the Peacock Alley is a most elegant Salon for hotel guests and non residents to relax over afternoon tea or a coupe of champagne. The Bartender has invented a special Scotch Whisky, Earl Grey and orange-flavoured “Monarch” cocktail, the perfect tipple as you browse around this artwork.
It makes you wonder that if Landseer were alive today, he would be invited to work for fashion houses and jewellers to create promotional advertisements .. you can just visualise Landseer’s Stags, dogs and lions joining Cartier’s Panther as a symbol of artistic style and luxury.
“The Man and the Monarch” is on show until the end of April 2017
The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian
Princes Street, Edinbugh EH1 2AB. tel. 0131 222 8888