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National Portrait Gallery

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Portrait of the Artist: Freud’s Irresistible Dualism

by Char Jansen
''The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.'' The paradox, as defined by the late artist himself, is a focal quality contained in the exhibition presented at the National Portrait Gallery; Freud’s portraits are beguilingly close to their subjects --  “the paint is the person” – and yet at the same time, uncanny, strange. This impressive exhibition is packed with beauties of all shapes and sizes - from works on a smaller scale, such as the wide-eyed, Girl With Kitten, 1947 - to the emotive, large-scale And The Bridegroom, 2001 (depicting the... [more]
Posted by Char Jansen on 3/3/12
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Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

by Laura Bushell
Digital photography has gifted us the monkeys-and-typewriters theory in action: with no printing costs we can snap away and fluke ourselves a beautifully constructed shot. But pinpointing exactly what makes a magical photo and reproducing this by design not chance is a different matter, especially when it comes to portraits. When a photographic portrait works it’s incredibly powerful and nuanced; in a fraction of a second the photographer distills something of their complex subject. A truly affecting portrait must be intimate but simultaneously metaphorical, detailed but still mysterious, speaking... [more]
Posted by Laura Bushell on 11/20/11
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BP Portrait Award 2011

by James Cahill
The 32nd annual Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery (and the 22nd sponsored by BP) surveys an eclectic and unpredictable range of subjects, from cultural icons such as Boy George or saxophonist Courtney Pine to unknown or anonymous figures, such as a female prisoner in orange jumpsuit, or a woman tethered to rocks in the style of a mythological heroine re-imagined in the nineteenth century. This year’s prize has gone further than in previous years to foreground the formal and thematic range of contemporary portraiture, and to defy the commonplace notion of portraiture as a formulaic... [more]
Posted by James Cahill on 7/31/11
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Alex Katz Retrospective

by Mike Tuck
Alex Katz has been the darling of the New York painting world since his work first emerged in the 1960s. His early, matter-of-fact, painting of American life captured the transient, floating scenes of East coast bohemian, creative and intellectual life; a project that Katz continues to this day. The National Portrait Gallery presents a small and intimate retrospective of Katz’s portrait work to date. Upon entering the galleries one mingles with Katz’s three-dimensional work One Flight Up (1968). It consists of 31 portraits on aluminium, cut out and mounted together. Ambulating t... [more]
Posted by Mike Tuck on 8/15/10
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John Gibbons at the National Portrait Gallery

by Alex Field
        In his first display at the National Portrait Gallery, John Gibbons’collection of five works offers an enlightening insight into the sculptor’s approach to portraiture. During the initial engagement with his materials Gibbons begins to shape each work to reflect the characteristics of people from his past and present, seeking to imbue them with a sense of the person’s inner life. The artist views his sculptures as receptacles for human character and experience, and this leads him to produce works that are at the same time abstract and commemorative as portraits.  Far from being portra... [more]
Posted by Alex Field on 10/12/09
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Gerhard Richter Portraits

by Nicholas James
‘The most perfect picture' Gerhard Richter, the great and elusive German artist, described his choice in the early ‘60s to use found snapshots as the primary source for his neo-realist paintings. Born in Dresden, East Germany in 1932 Richter began his career as a social realist mural artist under the communist regime, escaping to the West in 1961 just before the Berlin Wall went up. A student at the Düsseldorf Academy under Professor Joseph Beuys, Richter connected with avant garde figures Sigmar Polke, Konrad Lueg and Blinky Palermo. Reacting against Beuys's shamanistic romantic... [more]
Posted by Nicholas James on 2/26/09