Queen Elizabeth II 335 by Andy Warhol is one of sixteen prints in the Reigning Queens series. Warhol debuted this collection two years before his death in 1985, featuring four female monarchs. All of the queens in the portfolio hold power in their own right, rather than obtaining it through marriage. The four queens include Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland, and above, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. The collection depicts Warhol’s fascination with royalty, feminine power, and global figures.
The photos used in this collection were official or media photographs of the monarchs. For Queen Elizabeth II, Warhol chose the official photograph released for her Silver Jubilee in 1977, taken by Peter Grugeon in 1975. Warhol used the same photo for four prints of the queen, though each varies in color and composition.
In Queen Elizabeth II 335, the silkscreened portrait uses a contrasting purple background to draw attention to the queen’s vibrant green dress. The image features abstract blocks of color which Warhol printed from separate screens. For Warhol, silk screening was a trademark technique that serves as the heartbeat of his work. This technique allowed Warhol to easily reproduce images over and over. In this collection Warhol prints four portraits each queen, creating a total of 16 prints. Reigning Queens is thus one of Warhol’s larger series in terms of portfolio size, although the edition size is rather small, making them especially intriguing to collectors.
Warhol seemed to obsess over the concept of repetition and mass production. The repetitive nature of his prints symbolizes the idea of manufacturing and the large-scale production of celebrity imagery in media. Working through this philosophy, Warhol dubbed his art studio “The Factory,” and sought to produce art at a commercial level of output. Additionally, the photographs that Warhol used for the basis of the series are all official state portraits, which are heavily mass produced—appearing on objects like coins, stamps, and state seals.
Another common theme found throughout Warhol’s work is the topic of celebrities and money. The glamorous life of celebrities–and the constant attention they received in the media–fascinated Warhol. Not only did he find inspiration through the lives of celebrities, but through political figures as well. The Reigning Queens series is one of the many politically-focused series he created throughout his career. Other political subjects he depicted include John F. Kennedy and Vladimir Lenin. Furthermore, Warhol was asked to create a portrait for President Jimmy Carter’s campaign in 1976.
Warhol was often influenced by women of power in his art, whether it be political power or fame and luxury. He created many portraits of famous women, including his extremely popular Marilyn Monroe series. Similarly, his collection of Marylin Monroe portraits feature a basic image of the well-known figure transformed by bright colors. Warhol often glamorized the women in his prints by adding detailed colors which represent colorful makeup. In Queen Elizabeth II 335, Warhol chose a stunning pink color for the subject’s lips which stand out against her pale skin. Warhol also adds blue detailing around the eyes which creates an effect of bold blue eyeliner on the subject.