Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

London’s National Portrait Gallery

Museums And Exhibitions

London’s National Portrait Gallery

You have approximately six months until the National Portrait Gallery shuts down for a three year renovation (29 June 2020 – Spring 2023)! If you’ve not yet visited, hopefully these five reasons will inspire you to go before the gallery’s dormancy:

1. Inspiring stories

Image result for Sir John Longstaff, Amy Johnson, 1930,
Sir John Longstaff, Amy Johnson, 1930, National Portrait Gallery, London, England.

Amy Johnson (1903-41) was an aviator brought up in Hull, England. After university she learned to fly and trained to be a ground-engineer. Then, at the age of twenty-seven she flew solo, in a tiny Gipsy Moth, to Australia in nineteen days. She also flew record-breaking flights in Tokyo and Cape Town! Johnson was part of the Air Transport Auxiliary in the second world war, and sadly died after bailing out of her Airspeed Oxford aeroplane over the Thames estuary. Not just an inspiring female pilot, but also a war-hero. Her portrait hangs on display alongside around 1,400 others, each with their own story.

If you have a personal heroine or role-model, who is (or was) a public figure, I can almost guarantee that the National Portrait Gallery has their picture. To discover another feminist figure, whose portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, click here.

2. Portraits you might not expect

Image result for l s lowry self portrait London's National Portrait Gallery
L. S. Lowry, L. S. Lowry, 1938, The National Portrait Gallery, London, England.

You may know certain artists (or people generally) in certain contexts, but the obvious thing about the National Portrait Gallery is that you get to see their portrait. David Beckham, for example, is captured on a video-portrait (by Sam-Johnson, 2004), sleeping after a football game. Personally, it’s often the self-portraits that surprise me. Such as the one of Laurence Stephen (‘L.S.’) Lowry (1887-1976), who is well-known for those landscape scenes with lots of people. His self-portrait is clearly by him, but I’d never seen a Lowry quite like it – a close up and arresting image, rather than a broad detailed scene.

L.S. Lowry, ‘Industrial Landscape’ 1955
L. S. Lowry, Industrial Landscape, 1955, The Tate, London, England.

3. Mind-blowing variety

Image result for Dame Judi Dench National Portrait Gallery
Alessandro Raho, Judi Dench, 2004, oil on canvas, The National Portrait Gallery, London, England.

From teeny-tiny miniatures to ceiling high images (such as Dame Judy) and from oil-painting to photographs: the variety in the portraits on display is extreme. Take a look at this portrait of King Edward VI for example:

Attributed to William Scrots, King Edward VI, 1546, The National Portrait Gallery, London, England.

No, this picture is not incorrect. It is an “anamorphis,” a distorted perspective requiring the viewer to occupy a specific vantage point. For this one, that vantage point is a round notch at the right of the painted oak frame. There would have been an iron viewing device which pulled out to allow the portrait to be seen from the correct position – if you want to see the image with clarity, you’ll just have to go and take a peep in person.

4. Something for everyone: history, literature, pop-culture…

Words need not describe the range of sitters in the portraits, there is, truly, something for everyone, even someone is not interested in art per-say, but is instead a pop-culture fanatic, a history buff, or a literature-lover.

Image result for The Spice Girls (Geri Halliwell; Mel C; Emma Bunton; Mel B; Victoria Beckham) by Harry Borden toned bromide print, October 1996 London's National Portrait Gallery
Harry Borden, The Spice Girls (Geri Halliwell; Mel C; Emma Bunton; Mel B; Victoria Beckham), toned bromide print, October 1996, The National Portrait Gallery, London, England.
Image result for oil on canvas, 1924-1930 , Statesmen of World War I, The National Portrait Gallery, London, England.
Sir James Guthrie, Statesmen of World War I, 1924-1930, The National Portrait Gallery, London, England.
Image result for Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford platinum print, July 1902 NPG P220 London's National Portrait Gallery
George Charles Beresford, Virginia Woolf,
July 1902, platinum print, The National Portrait Gallery, London, England.

5. The ease of the visit


Finally, in addition to all those reasons above, the National Portrait Gallery is extremely easy to handle. Because everyone will have some touch-stone of knowledge the collection is genuinely accessible to all. A little knowledge goes a long way in helping get someone unfamiliar with galleries get into the swing. More practically, it’s also free and right beside Trafalgar square. You can wander in whilst on a more well-trodden tourist-route, or just pop by on a rainy Sunday morning. It’s also not huge, so you can choose to go and focus on one or two portraits, but you could also meander around the space comfortably within two hours.

London's National Portrait Gallery
Entrance of the National Portrait Gallery in 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

Isla graduated with a first class BA in Classics from the University of Cambridge in 2018. Her specialisms were Art, Archaeology and the Roman poet Ovid. After graduation she spent a year in Japan, where she interned as a curatorial assistant at the Fukuoka Asian Arts Museum. Currently, Isla is studying for a History of Art MA at Birkbeck, London (part-time). Professionally (full-time) Isla  is the Director of the Kent Academies Network University Access Programme and also a teacher at a school in Kent.

Comments

More in Museums And Exhibitions

  • Art State of Mind

    The Origin of the World and the Female Gaze

    By

    It was Shakespeare who coined the phrase, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. The premise rests on the notion that the rose’s inherent beauty and olfactory prowess would remain unchanged no matter what one called it. Now imagine if the phrase were...

  • 21st century

    Exploring the Boundaries of Creativity: Turning Data into Art

    By

    Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, and now based in Los Angeles, California, media artist Refik Anadol turns data into pieces of art by using data science and artificial intelligence. He set off on his journey as a media artist by asking the question “Can we...

  • Aerial view of Beirut Aerial view of Beirut

    20th century

    Beirut’s Art Scene: Before the Blast and Now

    By

    It was only three years ago, after a long civil war, that Beirut’s art scene began to find its feet. Despite ever-present political corruption, an unsteady economy, and rising inflation, the Mediterranean city has recently become a hot-spot for Arab artists that often attracts an international...

  • Damien Hirst, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable Damien Hirst, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

    19th Century

    Artists and Their Myths

    By

    Sometimes, the story that is attached to an artist is as important as their craft. Let’s take a look at artists and the myths that are related to them. Though many think of myth as a fictional story, that is not always the case. In fact,...

  • 19th Century

    Six of the World’s Most Famous Art Academies

    By

    Have you ever wondered where the world’s most famous artists went to school? Many studied at one (or more) of these six art academies. The schools on this list have trained the most famous painters, sculptors, and architects in western art history. Several still offer classes...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy