A new portrait of dowdy old Queen Elizabeth II by controversial artist Lucian Freud (are
there any non-controversial British artists?) has provoked a shitstorm of,
predictably enough, controversy among British art snobs and royalty enthusiasts alike
because it portrays the Queen as dowdy and old, with deep crevices and wrinkles and big
puffy jowls and loose flubbery skin.
Which is what she looks like. But I guess no one is supposed to talk about that in
"It's a Travesty!" hollered one tabloid, The Sun, over Freud's newly minted work, which
he recently donated to the Royal Collection, while the pompous old puffy old flubbery
Times of London itself bellowed that there's never been a portrait of any queen,
in the whole history of the world that is so unflattering and gross. Not anybody
anywhere has ever looked so disgusting as our Queen, the Times complained.
While Americans probably won't see what all the fuss is about (after all, we liked
the way Eleanor Roosevelt looked like a crazy old sea merchant, and admit it, we always
had a soft spot for Barbara Bush, even if she looked just like George Washington,) the
English are apparently new to this whole "realism in art" concept. The Queen is
typically depicted as a glamorous youngish lass clad in billowy Garments of Royal Stature
in "official" art; anyone who's ever collected one of Britain's age-defying portrait
stamps can vouch for this phenomenon. Freud's work has acted like a cold splash of
reality in the face of stuffy old assholes all over the United Kingdom.
Let's face it, people. She's OLD. Damn old. Old old old. People LOOK LIKE THAT when
they get her age.
One cranky wag in the Evening Standard complained that Freud's portrait gives the
Queen "blackcurrant eyes and the sort of pursed lips last seen on Jack Nicholson when he
played Batman's archenemy, the Joker," and then began mumbling something about "spotted
dick" and rhyming words like "hoidy toidy boidy doidy" before falling into a deep and
undisturbable sleep. Letter to the Editor the Evening Standard: the portrait makes her
look that way because that's WHAT SHE LOOKS LIKE.
I'm surprised I even have to explain this to you people over there in England.