Her Majesty The Queen receives gift of Royal portraits by Yousuf Karsh

Release date: 
Thursday, 17 July 2008

Her Majesty The Queen has been presented with a group of 43 photographs of Members of the Royal Family taken by the Armenian-born Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh between 1943 and 1987.  This generous gift from the Karsh Estate marks the centenary of the birth of Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), one of the most accomplished portrait photographers of the 20th century.  It includes both well-known and unfamiliar images, among them portraits of HM The Queen,
HM King George VI, HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and HRH The Prince of Wales. The gift will form part of the Royal Photograph Collection.

Born in Armenia, Yousuf Karsh moved to Quebec at the age of 16 to live with his uncle, a professional photographer.  In 1928 he was apprenticed to the portrait photographer John H. Garo in Boston, before returning to Canada in 1932. Karsh established a studio in Ottawa and was known for his skilful lighting techniques, which he had learnt from the theatre. In 1941 Karsh’s work was brought to international prominence with his wartime image of a defiant Winston Churchill. The photograph captured the mood of the Nation and is said to be the most reproduced photographic portrait in history. Yousuf Karsh went on to photograph many celebrities and politicians, including Audrey Hepburn, Nikita Khrushchev and
John F. Kennedy.  He wrote, ‘within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can’. 

The Queen was first photographed by Yousuf Karsh in 1943 as a seventeen-year-old Princess.  At  the  same  sitting, Karsh  produced  a  dramatic  and  little-known  portrait  of  her father, King George VI.  The collection also includes a series of portraits of the Princess Elizabeth in the year before she acceded to the throne.  It was during this session in 1951 that Karsh produced the striking double-profile portrait of the Princess with Prince Philip and photographed the royal couple with their two young children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne.  Fifteen years later Karsh photographed The Queen and Prince Philip in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace to mark the Centennial of Canadian Confederation in 1967.

Other photographs in the gift include portraits of The Prince of Wales taken in 1975, The Queen and Prince Philip before an official visit to Canada in 1984, and The Queen and Prince Philip with four grandchildren in the library at Balmoral in 1987.

Further information is available from Rachel Woollen, Public Relations and Marketing, the Royal Collection, 020 7839 1377,rachel.woollen@royalcollection.org.uk

Note to Editors
The Royal Photograph Collection contains some 400,000 images, from 1842 to the present day, acquired by members of the royal family by purchase or by gift. Exhibitions of material from the Royal Photograph Collection are regularly shown at Windsor Castle, such as the current HRH The Prince of Wales: An Exhibition to celebrate his Sixtieth Birthday.