The European Collection

In Remembrance

Queen Elizabeth II

In remembrance of the UK’s longest reigning monarch, a delicate oil on ivory miniature of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, from the Bermuda National Gallery’s permanent collection, has been put on display for a limited time.

Designed by William Hockley Harrington (British, 1898-1977) and painted by Doreen Frances (‘Mac’) Musson (British/ Bermudian, 1925-2015) the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, framed in silver laurel wreath wrought by James Kempe, Jr (Bermudian, 1923-2018), was intended to be gifted to the monarch by the Bermuda Art Association to commemorate her first visit to the island in 1953.

Arriving just five months after her coronation, Bermuda was the first stop on the new Queen’s Royal Tour of the Commonwealth, her first overseas tour as sovereign and Head of the Commonwealth. The 6-month tour saw her fly to Bermuda and on to Jamaica, before boarding the SS Gothic on which she travelled to Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Aden, Uganda, Malta and Gibraltar – covering a distance of 30,000 miles.

The St Edward’s crown above the portrait was originally created by Tiffany & Co. in New York, made in gold and inset with diamonds. However, there was a disagreement within the Bermuda Art Association, with the director opposed to the gift, and it was ultimately deemed by the Governor of Bermuda, Sir Alexander Hood, as “not coming under the category of gifts Her Majesty is able to accept”. When this happened, the jewelled crown was kept by the person who had financed the project, an American friend of Bermuda-based artist Antoine Verpeilleux (British, 1888-1964), and it was replaced with the silver crown shown here.

The rift over the gift of the miniature caused a split within the already fractious Bermuda Art Association, ultimately leading to the formation of the Society of Artists in 1952 by a breakaway group, which, when formalised by an Act of Parliament in 1956, was restructured and officially renamed The Bermuda Society of Arts. BSoA remains Bermuda’s oldest established art organisation, residing in the City Hall & Arts Centre alongside the Bermuda National Gallery.

Queen Elizabeth II visited the Bermuda National Gallery in 1994, meeting former BNG Executive Director Laura Gorham (left) and Founding Trustee John Bluck, Chairman Emeritus (centre) for a private tour of Bill Ming: The Home Comin’.

Laura Gorham remembers: “She was everything you wanted the Queen to be – she made every interaction memorable, making a meaningful personal comment to each person. This was extraordinary as I think I introduced her to 100 people that morning.”

The European Collection

Art As Activism

Titus Kaphar

The cover of the latest issue of TIME magazine is a painting by American artist Titus Kaphar entitled Analogous Colours which shows George Floyd’s mother holding him a baby, in which he has been cut out of the canvas to depict her loss. The painting references the calls that Floyd repeatedly made out to his deceased mother as he succumbed to his death.  
The cover, which also includes the names of 35 black men and women who died as the result of of systemic racism in the U.S, creates an imagined symbolic act of empowerment reminiscent of Tax Collector, which Kaphar created in 2011 for the Bermuda National Gallery’s exhibition Re-Interpreting the European Collection.
Kaphar was amongst eight local and international artists that were asked to respond to a piece of their choice from BNG’s permanent collection. He chose to respond to Thomas Gainsborough’s  Portrait of Thomas John Medleycott.
On the night of the exhibition opening, Kaphar, dressed in character, anonymously entered the gallery and sliced into the canvas of a pastiche he had created of Gainsborough’s celebrated portrait, before discarding both the materials and the workman’s outfit and emerging as himself, the artist. 
The resulting artwork, much like the TIME cover, makes space for new meaning and interpretation, using layers of personal and national histories to ask the viewer to become an active producer of history.

Top: TIME magazine cover by Titus Kaphar, June 2020. Left:Thomas John Medlycott, by Thomas Gainsborough, c. 1763. Oil on canvas. 87 x 57 inches. Collection of the Bermuda National Gallery. Gift of Hon. Hereward Trott Watlington. Right:Tax Collector, by Titus Kaphar, 2011. Oil on canvas. 87.25 x 57.25 inches. Photography by Antoine Hunt.