Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth, passed away last week at Windsor Castle, at age 99. The Duke was a patron, president or a member of more than 780 organizations, and continued to support them and various other causes well after his retirement. He is best known for founding the Duke of Edinburgh Award and for steering the World Wildlife Fund. Throughout his life, the Prince was also a dedicated patron of the arts and was even a hobbyist artist.
The Prince, who married Queen Elizabeth II in 1947, enjoyed oil painting, creating numerous landscapes and portraits over the years, some of which were kept in his private collection, others were displayed in the Royal Collection Trust.
His best-known painting is of The Queen enjoying her breakfast and reading a newspaper in the dining room at Windsor Castle from 1965, painted in a strikingly affectionate and informal style. The painting was part of the Duke’s private collection but came to the attention of the public after being published in the book The Royal Portrait: Image and Impact, in 2010, offering a rare and private glimpse into the Queen’s daily life.
The Prince’s friendship with the English artist Edward Seago was formative and influential, both to his own style and his patronage of the arts. The Royal Collection Trust noted of the prince’s painting Duart Castle from the Sound of Mull, that “[t]he atmosphere and light show the influence of his friend, the artist Edward Seago.”
In 1956, Prince Philip invited Seago on a tour of the Antarctic and a number of the artist’s paintings from the journey were then displayed at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. (The late Queen Mother was also an avid collector of Seago’s works). One work by Seago, was once displayed alongside works by Rembrandt in an exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace.
During the Duke of Edinburgh’s world tour, the Prince would paint a portrait of Seago at his easel on board the Royal Yacht Britannia. Seago, in turn, made a portrait of the prince at work with his oil paints. The pair of paintings were shown together in the 2016 exhibition “Portrait of The Artist” at Buckingham Palace.
The Duke’s commitment in the arts extended well beyond his own pursuits. He was a devoted patron, and during his time he acquired works by contemporary artists for the Royal Collection Trust, notably by British and Commonwealth artists including Barbara Hepworth, Mary Fedden, and Sidney Nolan, as well as ceramics by Austrian artist Lucie Rie. He was also known for his collection of political cartoons.
In 1992, after a fire at Windsor Castle, the Prince took on the role of chairman of its restoration committee. According to the Royal Collection Trust, he was closely involved both in the restoration process of the castle as well as the design of the stained glass windows for a new chapel at Windsor Castle, making sketches that he shared with Joseph Nuttgens, the stained glass artist who designed the windows, which were installed in the chapel in 1997.