Room 29: The Turn of the Century
© The National Portrait Gallery, London
This room brings together paintings which reveal the effect of French influences on British portraiture in the last years of the nineteenth century and serves as a link between the Victorian and Early 20th Century collections. A wall of superb portraits by John Singer Sargent, born of American parents and trained in Paris in the heyday of Impressionism, demonstrates his pre-eminence as a portraitist in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. The impact of new approaches in painting can be traced in other portraits, both in their style and their sitters. Portraits of Walter Richard Sickert, Philip Wilson Steer and Augustus John, show leading components of the avant-garde in the years around the turn of the century.
John's bohemian appearance, and defiantly outward gaze in Orpen's painting, also signals the way others portrayed in this room rebelled against Victorian conventions in life as well as art. The young Roger Fry's portrait of Edward Carpenter records a figure who challenged both social and sexual orthodoxies and who, like Fry himself, was to have an important influence on the coming generation.