Sculptor meets the Queen after years
ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News | 5/16/2008 12:00:00 AM | ASLI SAĞLAM
British sculptor David Cregeen, who was among the guests invited to a reception held yesterday, was commissioned to do a bust of the Queen 15 years ago. He says the Queen was very interested in the sculpting process
While Turkey celebrates the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, there is at least one man in Turkey who has already had the rare opportunity to meet her.
British sculptor David Cregeen, who was among the guests invited to a reception held yesterday in Istanbul, first met Queen Elizabeth II 15 years ago when he produced a sculpture of her. The sculpture was eventually used as the basis for a stamp made for her Golden Jubilee in 2003.
Cregeen was commissioned to do a bust of the Queen for the Sackler Foundation, created by the great American philanthropist Dr. Arthur M.Sackler. The project is called “Faces in History,” and the Queen was asked by the director of the Commonwealth be part of the exhibition given her important historic role as the symbolic head of a union that includes such diverse nations as India, Canada, and Australia.
Cregeen was chosen for the job, and went to Buckingham Palace for five sittings in order to produce the bust. Describing his admiration for the important role the Queen plays in the world, Cregeen noted, “The Queen is head of the Commonwealth, which is an association of 53 independent states consulting and co-operating in the common interests of their peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and world peace.”
Cregeen is, in fact, the only sculptor who has had the opportunity to produce representations from life of four leading members of the British Royal Family –the Queen, Queen Mother, Prince of Wales, and, his wife, Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla. He has also made sculptures of Pope John-Paul II, President Mandela, President Gorbachev, Baroness Thatcher and is now about to work on one of the Dalai Lama.
Cregeen fell in love with Turkey when he visited here with a friend of his in 1986, so much so that he decided to stay for good. He said that as soon as he arrived in Side, he fell in love with the place, ultimately deciding to settle there.
Cregeen’s reputation as a sculptor soon spread throughout Turkey. Since he arrived here he has produced sculptures of the late President Turgut Özal, and of Sakıp Sabancı and the rest of the Sabancı family.
He said that he was very much honored to be invited by the British Council General Dame Barbara Hay, to see the Queen again. He said he had a wonderful time at the reception, especially because of the reception’s beautiful location on a Royal Naval Vessel on the Bosphorous.
Cregeen says that in the 15 years since he sculpted the Queen he has had an opportunity to see her a few times, the last of which was when she visited his exhibition, which included the busts he produced of four members of the royal family, in London at The Royal Commonwealth Society in 2006.
Cregeen has fond memories of his experience sculpting the Queen. He says she was always a perfect professional. “Whatever she does she does it well, even simply sitting for a sculptor,” he said, adding, “She is a serious and very considerate person so sometimes she would give me longer than the official one hour, on one occasion giving me as much as two and half hours.” Cregeen said that his sessions with the Queen were always very relaxed. “She has a nice sense of humor and while I was sculpting we would talk about many things. Of course it was a very special time for me and I enjoyed it very much,” Cregeen emphasized.
The sittings took place in a room at the front of The Palace called the “Chinese Drawing Room,” decorated with artwork and furnishing from the early 19th century. It is a very beautiful room,” the sculptor said.
He says he sometimes arrived early in order to organize his work, and the Queen would always show up at the exact time of the appointments, accompanied by her private secretary, a former British ambassador.
“After she had taken her seat I would start to sculpt her with my clay, which I later cast into bronze,” said Cregeen. He said the Queen was very interested in the sculpting process, which gave him an opportunity to discuss the other world-renowned sculpture he has produced of figures such as, British actor Sir John Guilgud, Prince Philip's first cousin, King Michael of Roumania, and, of course, the Queen Mother.
He advised the Queen to visit Turkey, telling her that the country is a place not to be missed. She told him how much her daughter, Princess Margaret enjoys her yearly visits to stay, in which she stays in the south. During his visits, Cregeen also spent some time with Prince Charles, who he also tried to convince to visit Turkey, continuing the conversation when he stayed with the royal family in Scotland to sculpt Prince Charles’ wife, the Duchess Camilla.
Cregeen, who enjoys living in Side maintains a place in London where he travels frequently to visit members of his family who still live there. He has also often gone to New York where he is completing the commission for the Sackler’s “Faces in History” exhibit.