Visual art

Read more about HM The Queen’s visual art.

Even as a child, Princess Margrethe was fascinated with drawing. Both her maternal grandmother, the Swedish Crown Princess Margareta, and an older kinsman, Prince Eugen of Sweden, were talented and productive painters, so it was in the family. In the Royal House’s depots, a good many of the drawings from the Princess’s childhood and youth can be found, but also a couple of panels that she was allowed to decorate with colored fish in an undersea world in one of the bathrooms of her childhood home at Frederik VIII’s Palace at Amalienborg.

At the beginning of the 1970s, The Queen became fascinated with Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and, unsolicited and under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer, sent a series of sketches to the author. Tolkien was opposed to all types of illustrations for his work, because the readers were supposed to create in their imaginations their own conceptions of the universe described in the books. Nevertheless, the author kept the drawings from the unknown artist, because, upon his death in 1973, two of Grathmer’s ink sketches were found in his coat pocket, while the rest turned up during a review of the estate, several even with Tolkien’s warm recommendations noted on the sheets. The artist turned out to be The Queen, and when Gyldendal reissued The Lord of the Rings in 1977, the publishing house chose to start with The Queen’s fluid, Art Nouveau-inspired illustrations, in which no faces are put on the main characters, exactly as Tolkien preferred.

The Queen has continued to draw and paint since then and works in watercolors, oil chalk and acrylic paint, which are transformed into naturalistic and more or less abstract expressions. Throughout the years, small sketchpads have been constant companions in the bag on The Queen’s trips, so that impressions and interesting motifs, blended with ideas for a new embroidery, church textile or ballet costume, can immediately be noted. The Queen usually works in series, in which an idea is tried out in several versions over several years. Here, a wide variety of sources of inspiration are drawn upon: nature outside and at home, impressions from trips or stays at the palaces Amalienborg, Fredensborg, Marselisborg, Graasten or Château de Cayx, the hunting lodge at Trend or the Royal Yacht Dannebrog, but also archaeology, legend and literature, and especially The Queen’s own imagination.  

The Queen took up watercolor painting as early as the mid-1970s, when Her Majesty made nearly 50 imaginative illustrations for the sons’ goodnight reading, again for the admired trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, but this time in beautiful pastel colors, which reappeared in the series Landskaber til tabte sagn (Landscapes for lost legends). Otherwise, The Queen has especially used watercolors – which, in terms of equipment, do not take up so much space – to capture her impressions from journeys around the world, especially in Greenland and Norway.

The Queen enjoys painting in acrylic on canvas, by which widely different styles have been tried out over the past 30 years, especially for numerous series of paintings. 

Selection of visual art

See examples of The Queen’s visual art in the gallery below.

Overview of book illustrations

The Queen’s book illustrations

  • Ringenes Herre, J.R.R. Tolkien, 1977, republished in 2001
  • Historien om Regnar Lodbrog, Jørgen Stegelmann, 1979
  • Bjarkemål, Axel Olrik, 1982
  • Dalen, Markerne og Skoven, Stig Strömholm, 1988-89
  • Komedie i Florens, Poul Ørum, 1990
  • Cantabile, HRH Prince Henrik, 2000 (découpage)
  • Rigs- og Slægtsbibel, 2000
  • Snedronningen. H.C. Andersen, 2000 (découpage)
  • Syv fantastiske fortællinger og Seven Gothic Tales, Karen Blixen, 2003 (découpage)
  • De Vilde Svaner, H.C. Andersen, 2009 (découpage)
  • Frihjul, HRH Prince Henrik, 2010 (découpage)