Terence Donovan’s portrait of Diana to go on show at the MFA, Houston

Terence Donovan’s 1990 portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales is one of approximately 150 works of photography, painting and sculpture featured in Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits from Holbein to Warhol. The exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, has been jointly conceived by Dr. Louise Stewart of the National Portrait Gallery, London and the MFA, Houston’s David Bomford.

The exhibition charts 500 years and four dynasties, from Hans Holbein the Younger’s 1540 portrait of Henry VIII to Annie Leibovitz’s 2016 photographs of Elizabeth II, taken to commemorate the Queen’s 90th birthday. Intending to shed new light on changing ideas of monarchy and nationhood in Britain, many of the works featured in the exhibition have never before been seen outside of the UK.

Four royal dynasties are explored, including the House of Tudor (1485–1603), the House of Stuart (1603–1714), and the House of Hanover (1714–1901). Donovan’s work falls within the present-day House of Windsor, as the artist photographed Diana on a number of occasions in the mid to late 1980s and in early 1990. His official portraits of her, commissioned by the Princess and the Palace, were taken towards the end of her tenure as Her Royal Highness, before her official separation from the Prince of Wales in 1992.

Donovan’s work presents the shift in approach to royal photography which occurred in the last decade of the twentieth century; from distancing formality to a more relaxed, intimate portraiture. The Terence Donovan Archive has written that the artist’s portraits of Diana ‘seem to bridge these two worlds – his staged compositions are reminiscent of royal oil paintings and the grandeur of Beaton’s intricate tableaux but communicate a directness of gaze and sense of individuality that would emerge more fully in later years.’

Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits from Holbein to Warhol will run until 27 January 2019.

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