The National Portrait Gallery Collection

Susan Foister, Editor, Jacob Simon, Editor, Robin Gibson, Editor Cambridge University Press $85 (248p) ISBN 978-0-521-37392-0
The over 200 portraits selected here by four curators from England's National Portrait Gallery cover an instructive and amusing range, from an oil painting of the lissome young Henry, Prince of Wales (1594-1612) by Robert Peake to a black-and-white photo of sultry, mascara-drenched screen star Vivien Leigh. T. S. Eliot is charmingly fractured in a squiggly-lined, quasi-cubist performance in oil by Patrick Heron, while British trade union leaders Joe Gormley, Tom Jackson and Sig Weighell are rhapsodized with unlikely neoimpressionist flourish by Hans Schwarz. The artistic divide separating the 20th century from all that preceded it is vast: the almost unfailingly monumental, studied glimpses of England's greats in centuries past contrast sharply with whimsical views of enshrined contemporaries. Of particular interest are changing fashions in depicting royalty as well: Princess Anne seems but a vague, watery, civilian shadow of a thoroughbred, while Queen Elizabeth I appears in full autocratic regalia. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/06/1989
Release date: 07/01/1989
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