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Mary Gillick modelling The Queen's portrait

''I talked and the Queen talked, and I got her into my mind, and I was anxious if possible to get more than just that charming profile.'' – Mary Gillick Seventy years ago the young Queen Elizabeth II sat down to have her profile immortalised, for the first time, on British currency – this display reveals the artist and the process behind the portrait. Celebrating Her Majesty The Queen''s Platinum Jubilee year, this intriguing display presents the life and work of the sculptor Mary Gillick (1881–1965). Gillick enjoyed a burst of fame when, in her seventies, she was invited to model The Queen''s head for the new coinage, released directly after her accession in 1952. The public were keen to celebrate their new monarch, and The Queen''s newly minted likeness caused great excitement. The show follows Gillick''s long career, from her training in sculpture at London''s Royal College of Art in the early 1900s, through her specialisation in medallic art, to her 1952 success and beyond. Gillick''s extensive body of work includes cast medals showing an airman who shot down a Zeppelin over England during the First World War and prominent suffragette Ida Wylie. The work on display demonstrates Gillick''s skill as a portraitist and as a designer and, with a 15th-century medal by Italian artist Pisanello, shows her debt to the Renaissance – a key element that fed into her portrait of Queen Elizabeth. A highlight of the display will be items presented to the British Museum by the artist''s family in 2005, which included medals created by Gillick from the 1910s to the 1950s, a set of large-scale plaster models of her portrait of The Queen, and insightful documents relating to the coins.

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Activity Start Date:

Thursday 02nd June

Activity End Date:

Sunday 31st July


Creative Arts



Great Russell Street

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British Museum



+44 (0)20 7323 8000


Great Russell Street London WC1B 3DG