A Guide to Twentieth Century Portraits (paperback)

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Paul Moorhouse

An introduction to twentieth-century portraits through a fascinating selection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs chosen by the National Portrait Gallery and the National Trust. The twentieth century saw radical changes to the art of portraiture, giving us celebrated portraits of equally celebrated people: writers, explorers, artists, scientists, royalty, politicians, musicians and actors. This inspirational guide will appeal to anyone with an interest in portraiture and recent history.


Approaches to portraiture underwent remarkable changes in the twentieth century, challenging traditional notions of the genre. This guide traces the remarkable journey of the portrait from the figurative paintings of the Bloomsbury Group via Patrick Heron’s abstract figures and Andy Warhol’s revolutionising Pop Art prints, to the concept-driven work of the Young British Artists in the 1990s.

With a focus on the twentieth-century sitters who made breakthroughs in the fields of science, art, literature, politics and popular culture, this informative and accessible guide reveals the stories behind the portraits. Commentaries on the sitters, from Virginia Woolf to Alfred Hitchcock to Kate Moss, shed light on the various ways in which people have been presented, their experience of sitting, their relationship with the artist, and what they thought of the result.

The latest title in the National Portrait Gallery’s guide series, A Guide to Twentieth Century Portraits provides a valuable insight into the personalities who shaped the course of the century and the works of art that celebrated them.


Paul Moorhouse is Curator of Twentieth-Century Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Recent publications include The Queen: Art & Image (2011), Bridget Riley: From Life (2010),Gerhard Richter Portraits: Painting Appearances (2009) and Pop Art Portraits(2007)


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