COPENHAGEN Denmark's Queen Margrethe II said that painting landscapes helps to recharge her batteries in an exclusive interview with Reuters ahead of this week's opening of a major exhibition for her art.
"The Essence of Colour. The Art of Queen Margrethe II" which runs from Saturday until July at the Arken Museum of Modern Art outside Copenhagen consists of 135 acrylic and watercolour paintings and decoupages made by the Danish monarch over the last 35 years.
The 71-year-old queen, who devotes one afternoon a week to painting in her studio, said on Wednesday that she was inspired by Denmark's landscape and admired its "Golden Age" painters.
"I've always loved the landscape, and as a child what I really wanted to do was draw landscapes when we had drawing lessons."
The exhibition includes some new works never displayed before and marks the 40th anniversary of the reign of Margrethe, who polls show is the most popular monarch in Europe.
The queen's fascination with colour, including deep blues and greens in large acrylic landscapes devoid of people, contrast with her more recent works - a series of bright yellow paintings showing bones, which she said began to preoccupy her as an artist, gradually replacing other elements of landscape.
"I started off with imaginary landscapes in blue and green, and they had sort of secrets in them...You might fall into them, fall right through them," she said.
"And then I started putting large stones in my landscapes...and then for some reason or other they began to turn into bones."
"And then one time I thought 'Why not? Bones have fascinating shapes, let's see what happens,'" she said seated next to one of her large bone paintings at Arken.
The queen said she had never been tempted to put people in her paintings, but that she hoped her works draw the viewer into the landscape.
Queen Margrethe, who studied archaeology at Cambridge University in her youth, declined to name any artists who have inspired her. "But there are of course always painters whom I admire and find fascinating."
"I've often thought 'Goodness if I could paint like the Danish Golden Age painters, the early 19th century painters, the way they could paint a landscape -- absolutely beautiful.'"
"But that is not me and, of course, it is not what one does nowadays, and it is not what I can do anyway."
She said she recognised good paintings and noticed how artists compose and use colours and "what makes the picture tick."
"And that, I think, is where I draw my inspiration."
The queen, who ascended to the throne in January 1972, upon the death of her father, King Frederik IX, said she felt fortunate to be able to paint and honoured to display her work.
"It is an enormous satisfaction to be doing something that you really like doing, and it is also a way of recharging my batteries," she said.
"Painting is not what my life is about, but it is very important to me, and I am very lucky to be able to give some time to it," the queen said.
"The time that I devote to painting is not a lot of time, but I do it 100 percent while I am working, and then there's nothing else that counts."
The queen, who has engaged in various kinds of artistic work from painting to book illustration and costume design, said she had grown more sure of herself as a painter and more conscious of what she does over the years.
"I think as I have moved on and gained more experience, I have more paintings that are not just lucky hits, but actually have been worked on and it's worked not just by luck but because there's more consciousness about what I am doing."
Arken Director Christian Gether said artistic merit earned the queen's art the right to an exhibition in the museum, but acknowledged its provenance was also a unique draw.
"Pictorially she is very articulate and very proficient. But then there is the dimension that it is especially interesting because she is the queen," Gether told Reuters.
The queen said she paints mainly from September to May, the part of the year when she lives in Copenhagen, and does not find much time to paint in the summer though she does do some sketching outdoors.
"I hope I will be able to paint as long as I live," she said when asked how much longer she might carry on. "Of course one never knows how long I will be able to paint, but the position I have today is what I was supposed to do for the rest of my life."
(Reporting by John Acher, editing by Paul Casciato)