Queen Beatrix 338 by Andy Warhol is one of sixteen prints from the Reigning Queens series, published in in 1985. The series also includes Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland. Warhol spent most of his career fixated on those in the public eye. For him, that included political figures and in this case monarchs. His focus on royalty was undoubtedly a way to expand upon his study of celebrity. Further, Warhol’s use of brilliant pops of color and collage components was conducive to his particular style.
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands reigned for 33 years. During World War II her family fled to Canada to escape the Nazi invasion, and they did not return to the Netherlands until its liberation in 1945. Beatrix took the throne after her mother Juliana abdicated in 1980. She was a close friend of Queen Elizabeth II; though they had little executive power, both women were symbols of unity to their people. When Warhol created Queen Beatrix 338, she was only five years into her reign. In this series he captured a moment in time, a snapshot of history marked by the rule of four formidable women.
Queen Beatrix 338 utilizes a bright blue to draw attention to Beatrix’s features. In addition, the color serves as a contrast to her silver crown, her earrings and her brooch. Warhol created the screen print from one of her publicity shots, a photo in which she stands tall with a steady gaze. Blocks of fuchsia, teal and orange frame Beatrix’s face, while a brown background guides the viewer’s attention to the foreground. Her emerald eyes appear gem-like in this portrait, complimenting the jewels she wears. The image emphasizes Queen Beatrix’s regality while maintaining an air of mystique.
In June of 1985, George Mulder organized the opening of Warhol’s Reigning Queens portfolio in New York City. Warhol was unhappy with the event, stating, “They were supposed to be only for Europe—nobody here cares about royalty and it’ll just be another bad review.” He even told fellow artist Jean-Michel Basquiat not to attend the opening. However, despite Warhol’s misgivings the prints endured the test of time. In 2012, the Queen of England procured her “Royal Edition” portrait for the Royal Collection. The “Royal Edition” was a special printing that included diamond dust, ground up glass that glittered in the light.
During the 1980’s, Warhol released some of his finest work. Moreover, the decade was one of Warhol’s most productive periods. With the help of emerging artists like Keith Haring, Julian Schnabel, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, he stayed in touch with new happenings in popular culture and the art world. He also founded the New York Academy of Art with Stuart Pivar in 1982. In 1985, the same year he released his Reigning Queens series, Warhol finally attained his goal of having a television show. Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes aired for the first time in October. He also released other series like Cowboys and Indians, Ads and Myths during this era.
Queen Beatrix 338 is especially representative of Warhol’s methodology in the 1980’s. Additionally, the portrait symbolizes Warhol’s global perspective on celebrity beyond the popular culture in America.