With Wimbledon in full swing and England winning in the semi-finals of the European Football Championship, it seems that not even the British weather can dampen the nation’s patriotic spirit. In tribute to the British sporting events taking place this week and the incredible performance seen by our home teams, we take the opportunity to embrace English culture across the board and look at eight artworks that are quintessentially British.
GRAYSON PERRY, BRITAIN IS BEST, 2014
Created by Grayson Perry in 2014, Britain Is Best is a framed work of embroidery that reflects what Perry in his own words describes as the ‘nostalgic’ view of Britain by many Irish Unionists. Each figure sat on the horse represents a different Unionist Perry personally interviewed in Belfast for his BAFTA award winning TV program, Who Are You? In the artist’s signature style, the playful imagery, depicting British stereotypes, juxtaposes the masterful craftsmanship of the hand-embroidered piece.
TERRY O’NEILL, ROGER MOORE AS JAMES BOND, 1970
Roger Moore was the third actor to be the British secret agent, James Bond, playing the role in seven feature films between 1973 and 1985. Photographed by Terry O’Neill whilst in character for his iconic role, the artwork embodies all of the core qualities that Moore brought to his interpretation of the spy. The only Bond to have travelled to space as well as being the ultimate Lothario, charming seventeen different women during his tenure as 007, O’Neill’s image of James Bond is as memorable as Moore’s representation of the character itself.
Usually known for his diverse photographs of exotic and untravelled corners of the globe, David Yarrow’s Homeland celebrates a landscape a little closer to home. Photographed in Locharron in Yarrow’s home country, Scotland, the photographer reportedly described the countryside as ‘grand, slightly mournful, but at all times unique’. Capturing exactly that in this breath-taking image, the imperial stag stands stoically, appearing almost ethereal against the vast and rocky backdrop.
HARLAND MILLER, WHO CARES WINS, 2020
Originally created in order to raise money for the National Health Service during the COVID-19 pandemic, Who Cares Wins by Harland Miller is a call to arms for a kinder future. Praising the men and women who risked their lives battling on the frontline, this artwork raised over one million pounds for British COVID-19 related charities. Rendered in blue and white, the National Health Service colours, Miller’s work is as distinctly British visually as it is in sentiment.
DAMIEN HIRST, M-FLUOROBENZYLAMINE, 2018
The most iconic of all of Damien Hirst’s designs, his spot paintings have become globally recognised and renowned. Named after different pharmaceuticals, his colourful compositions have become synonymous with contemporary British art. In 2013, Hirst was tasked with reimagining the trophy for The BRIT awards, the UK music industry’s foremost annual award. Covering the slender prize in his iconic spot motif, the award was won by some of Britain’s best talents, including Coldplay, Mumford & Sons and Emeli Sandé.
BANKSY, DI-FACED TENNER NOTE (TEN POUNDS), 2004
With 1st July 2021 marking what would have been Princess Diana’s 60th birthday, there is no artwork more pertinent to now than Banksy’s Di-Faced Tenner Note. Created by the anonymous street artist in 2004, the reimagined ten pound notes were secretly distributed all across the country, scattered in crowds at music festivals or strewn in busy public spaces like the London underground. When Banksy revealed his authorship, the notes quickly became revered works of art, commenting upon the British royal establishment’s treatment of the Princess of Wales, as well as Britain’s wider obsession with the value of money.
TERRY O’NEILL, THE ROLLING STONES, 1964
Pioneers of mainstream Rock, The Rolling Stones came to define British music as we know it today. Photographed by Terry O’Neill just two years after they first formed the band in 1962, this image encapsulates 1960s Britain. During that time, the cultural phenomenon of the British Invasion grasped the United States and wider Western society, with bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks pervading youth culture across the world.
First appearing as a wall painting in a youth club in Gloucestershire, Monkey Queen provoked instant outrage amongst ardent monarchists due to its allegedly disrespectful depiction of Queen Elizabeth II. Replacing the queen’s bust with the image of a primate, the only decipherable signifiers of royalty within the piece are the monkey’s jewellery and hair. Released as a limited edition print in 2003, Monkey Queen is one of two artworks in which Banksy has depicted the monarch, painting the queen as David Bowie in 2012 for her Diamond Jubilee.