Andy Warhol is the icon of 20th-century American art. He was also one of the most successful artists who enjoyed both wealth and fame during his life. However, even he said he wanted to be famous like the British queen. Why the British queen?
Warhol created a series of silkscreen portraits titled “Reigning Queens” in 1985. The series features four ruling queens at that time: Queen Elizabeth II of England, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Beatrix of Netherlands, and Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland. The artist initially earned fame for portraits of celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. While it may seem like he was highly interested in the lives of celebrities, he wanted to become a star. He wanted to get fame like Queen Elizabeth II, two years older than him. The artist must have envied her highest status, grace, global fame, glamor, and wealth. Warhol often used pictures of famous figures published in newspapers or magazines. This silkscreen is also based on an official portrait of the queen taken by photographer Peter Grugeon in 1975 at her silver wedding ceremony.
Warhol, who was fascinated with the power of the queen’s symbolic image, produced this series in a rectangular shape, which resembles British stamps, instead of a square shape, which he typically used. Each portrait of the four-piece series has a background color of purple, blue, red-violet, and pink. The pink one is the most glamorous. When he additionally created the “Royal Edition” of 30 prints, he even dusted diamond powder over them to make the queens shine even more. The results were the most shining and glamorous images of the queens.
Queen Elizabeth II indeed liked Warhol’s pieces. She bought four “Royal Edition” portraits celebrating her 60th anniversary on the throne. They were the only portraits of hers for which she did not pose herself among the ones she had. Unlike the queen, who lived a long life until 96, Warhol passed away at 59 in 1987. However, he achieved his dream of becoming famous like the queen as the everlasting emperor of pop art.