Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Painting of the Day: The Opening of the Great Exhibition by Queen Victoria on May 1, 1851

The Opening of the Great Exhibition by Queen Victoria, 1 May 1851
Henry Courtenay Selous, 1851
This and all related images:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were overjoyed by the Great Exhibition of 1851. Not only was it an opportunity to showcase the unceasing talent of the British people, it was a pet project of Prince Albert’s who had hoped to encourage a greater appreciation of the arts and humanities.

It was only fitting that the opening of such an illustrious event should be recorded for posterity. Large commemorative oil paintings of significant events were often commissioned during this era. This large canvas by Henry Courtenay Selous was just one of many paintings of the Great Exhibition that were created. Selous initially created this painting for commercial purposes, so that the public could buy prints and reproductions of it as a souvenir of the occasion. This was quite an amazing opportunity for Selous who stood to make an exceptional amount of money from the reproduction rights—more, in fact, than he would have from the sale of the original work.

Henry Courtenay Selous (1803-1890) was celebrated in London as a painter of genre, landscape, historical and literary subjects. Born and raised in London, Selous came from an artistic family. The son of the painter George Selous, as a young man he was a pupil of the painter John Martin, and by 1843, his work was attracting much attention and already winning major awards.

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