(ARTINFO, June 4, 2012) LONDON— The UK is in full Diamond Jubilee swing. To celebrate the 60th year of Queen Elizabeth II‘s extraordinary reign, the country is putting on celebrations that make the Royal Wedding of last year look like a quiet affair.

In short, this is epic. Here are a few suggestions for what the art lover might see or do amid all the hullabaloo:

A visit to the National Portrait Gallery is must. The “Queen Art and Image” exhibition brings together some of the most striking pictures of Her Majesty made during the last six decades. The focus here isn’t the familiar type of well-tamed, borderline soporific official portraiture, but the Queen as a muse for artists as varied as Andy Warhol, Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George, Thomas Struth, and Gerhard Richter.

Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle 2011 by Thomas Struth.

The Jubilee celebration ended Tuesday. Poor Prince Philip got a bladder infection on Monday and was hospitalized. He’ll be there for a few more days. Probably the gloomy weather for the River Pageant on Sunday did him in. 

Anyway, the National Portrait Gallery commissioned Thomas Struth for the huge double portrait. It’s one of the stars of the exhibit  (17 May – 21 October).  Both The Telegraph and The New Yorker interviewed him about the portrait.  I like The Telegraph’s story better because it’s not as rambling as the other. Struth talks more about the technical aspects of how he set up the shot – colors, light, etc. For example, the Queen’s dress was selected because the color looked best against the sofa and didn’t overwhelm her. Struth said of the Duke of Edinburgh:

“He is like an old eagle: he has very sharp eyes. I was surprised by how much energy he has, and how alert he is. People say he’s bizarre or awkward, but I found him quite impressive — though I was surprised when I asked him to move his hand and he reacted a little grumpily. He is eccentric — he tried to crack a few jokes during the sitting. But I felt they have a good relationship.”

“Lightness of Being” by Chris Levine 2007

Time magazine’s Iconic Queen is a special section about the Jubilee and retrospect of her life. One feature is “86 Surprising Facts About  Queen Elizabeth”.  I’m picking these two because today is D-Day.

8. Over the course of her reign, she has given regular Tuesday-evening audiences to 12 British Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill, 1951–55; Sir Anthony Eden, 1955–57; Harold Macmillan, 1957–63; Sir Alec Douglas-Home, 1963–64; Harold Wilson, 1964–70 and 1974–76; Edward Heath, 1970–74; James Callaghan, 1976–79; Margaret Thatcher, 1979–90; John Major, 1990–97; Tony Blair, 1997–2007; Gordon Brown, 2007–2010; and David Cameron, 2010-present.

36. Elizabeth learned to drive in 1945, when she joined the women’s branch of the British army. Both she and Winston Churchill’s daughter were members of the group, which was called the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

 D-DayU.S. Army (dot mil) Feature

June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot- hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded — but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.

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NOTE: Memorable quote from the 1962 film, The Longest Day [a coded message to the Resistance, spoken in FrenchRadio Announcer: Wounds my heart with a monotonous languor. 

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