Major exhibition including portraits by Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Tony Bevan, David Bomberg, William Coldstream, Peter de Francia, Lucian Freud, Derrrick Greaves, Leon Kossoff, Robert Medley, Rodrigo Moynihan, Eduardo Paolozzi.
Portraiture has been a central concern for many of the greatest British artists of the last half century. Inspired by Francis Bacon and encouraged by contemporaries such as William Coldstream, Head of the Slade School from 1949, and Rodrigo Moynihan, Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art from 1948, the practise has flourished to provide fresh challenges for subsequent generations of artists.
This exhibition explores the many directions taken by portraiture, focusing on paintings of eminent sitters.
At times the portrait reflects the subject's public persona, but commissions are comparatively rare, and it is often the artist's intimacy with the subject that gives the work its strength, combining a capturing of appearance with psychological penetration.
The exhibition takes as its starting point Coldstream's Portrait of Howard Griffin, a painting of the writer and poet, who shared with Coldstream a friendship with Auden, and Moynihan's Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon, a testament to the two men's close friendship. In each case the painting not only captures the sitter but provides a sense of the multiple sitting required to paint the work.
In contrast to the neutral settings of these paintings Peter de Francia's Portrait of Eric Hobsbawm uses the setting to reflect the energetic working of the great historian's mind.
More intimate are portraits of longstanding models. Auerbach's paintings and drawings of Catherine Lampert bestow a grandeur on the subject, whilst Kossoff's Fidelma no.I is more than a life-study of one of his longest serving models, but also has a regal presence. Just as raw is Robert Medley's extraordinary late painting, the naked Self Portrait after Watteau's Gilles, which contrasts the ravages of mortality with the longevity of art.
The exhibition also includes portraits of important musical figures. Michael Andrews's previously unexhibited Portrait of Roger Daltrey shows the lead singer of The Who caught in a swirl of colour. In contrast Tony Bevan's Portrait of Alfred Brendel, done in connection with a recent commission by the National Portrait Gallery, captures the subject through the boldness of its stark drawing.