Oscar Holland, CNN
At the largest exhibition of his watercolors to date, painting enthusiast Prince Charles has described the restorative benefits of art, saying it “transports me to another dimension.”
The heir to the British throne went on to say that painting is “one of the most relaxing and therapeutic exercises I know,” adding that his hobby “refreshes parts of the soul which other activities can’t reach.”
The comments feature on an exhibition display panel at a new show bringing together 79 of the prince’s landscape paintings. On show in London until mid-February, the works depict scenes from the French countryside, the Scottish Highlands and Tanzania, which is “one of the prince’s favorite places to paint,” according to a press release from his educational charity, The Prince’s Foundation.
“I took up painting entirely because I found photography less than satisfying,” he is quoted as saying. “Quite simply, I experienced an overwhelming urge to express what I saw through the medium of watercolor and to convey that almost ‘inner’ sense of texture which is impossible to achieve via photography.”
Like his great-great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria I, the prince is a “keen watercolorist” who “paints whenever his schedule allows,” according to his official website. He regularly depicts the royal family’s estates, including Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House, and has also produced watercolors in Turkey, Nepal and the Swiss Alps.
In the exhibition text, the prince admitted that he is “appalled by how bad” his early works were.
“I am under no illusion that my sketches represent great art or a burgeoning talent!” he added. “They represent, more than anything else, my particular form of ‘photograph album’ and, as such, mean a great deal to me.”
Though the prince does not sell his watercolors, lithographs of his works are used to raise money for his charitable fund. In 2016, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported that he had sold approximately £2 million ($2.7 million) worth of them from a shop at his Highgrove House residence.
In 1994, Britain’s Royal Mail featured Charles’ landscape paintings on a series of postage stamps marking 25 years since the ceremony that formally recognized him as the Prince of Wales. The National Gallery of Australia also exhibited several of his works in 2018 to mark his 70th birthday. Two decades earlier, for his 50th birthday, some 50 of his watercolors went on display at Hampton Court Palace, the residence of his ancestor Henry VIII.
In a press statement, curator of the new London exhibition, Rosie Alderton, said that the prince “likes to sit in the actual environment and paint ‘en plein air,'” adding: “His passion for creating beautiful art is conveyed strongly in this exhibition.”
The watercolors are displayed at the Garrison Chapel in Chelsea Barracks, a converted army barracks in London’s upmarket Belgravia district. Also on display is a tapestry based on one of the prince’s paintings, “Abandoned Cottage on the Isle of Stroma,” that took weaver Ben Hymers eight months to complete.
Top image: HRH Prince Charles painting a watercolor in Klosters, Switzerland.
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