David Hockney Celebrates Queen’s Reign with Stained Glass at Westminster Abbey

The Queen's Window being installed at Westminster Abbey
The Queen's Window being installed at Westminster Abbey | Photo: Alan Williams
Photo of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor1 October 2018

David Hockney has created his first stained glass window in Westminster Abbey called The Queen’s Window, which reflects the her majesty’s fondness of the countryside.

Following in the footsteps of Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Kehinde Wiley, David Hockney is the latest artist to create a stained glass window for an ecclesiastical building.

David Hockney at the unveiling of the the Queen's Window | © Alan Williams

To celebrate the Queen’s 65-year reign, the 81-year-old British artist was commissioned by the Church of England to create a window for the Westminster Abbey’s north transept.

The brief was simple: to create a symbolic image which was representational of the subject and would be recognisable as his own work.

The Queen's Window in Westminster Abbey, 2018 | © Alan Williams

In response to the Queen’s “deep affection and connection to the countryside”, Hockney has created a vivid country scene, which he initially sketched out on his iPad.

The image is inspired by Hockney’s home county of Yorkshire and features blossoming hawthorn, a shrub that the artist felt was the most celebratory aspect of the English landscape because, as he told Channel 4: “It looks as though champagne has been poured over the bushes.”

The Queen's Window before work began | © Alan Williams

Helen Whittaker of Barley Studio in York was tasked with transforming Hockney’s brightly coloured design into stained glass using traditional techniques.

As his first ever stained glass creation, Hockney wanted to evoke a simplicity similar to Mattisse’s approach and requested that strong block colour was used over enamels or etching.

The Queen's Window at Barley Studio | © David Harrison

In recent years Hockney’s style and colour palette has taken on a bold vivaciousness. He’s created kaleidoscopic paintings of his California garden and experimented with technology to produce vibrant works. But he’s always been drawn back to the rural idyll of his beloved Yorkshire, which is so brilliantly evident in this commission.

Helen Whittaker during installation of The Queen's Window at Westminster Abbey | © Alan Williams

The Queen was coronated at Westminster Abbey in 1953 and in 2015 she became the longest reigning British monarch. Hockney’s stained glass commemoration to the monarch follows another recent addition to the Abbey, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, which opened in May 2018 in the medieval Triforium.

The Queen’s Window is now on public view at Westminster Abbey.

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