The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

News Release: Susan Aldworth: The Portrait Anatomised

Thursday 20 December 2012

On display at the National Portrait Gallery, London, 7 March to 1 September 2013
Room 38a

The National Portrait Gallery, London has announced today (Thursday 20 December 2012) that a display of contemporary portraits by artist Susan Aldworth depicting sitters with epilepsy will go on show in March 2013. The National Portrait Gallery, London aims to increase the appreciation and understanding of contemporary forms of portraiture.  Aldworth’s monochrome, multi-image works are made by using a printmaking technique inspired by neuroscientific imagery and the works in The Portrait Anatomised will explore the relationship between mind and body.

Aldworth’s unique working methods combine traditional print processes with state of the art images such as medical brain scans, electroencephalograms (EEG) and digital photography. Each portrait in the display is two metres high and comprised of nine separate prints. The works in the display depict three sitters: Elisabeth, Fiona and Max who all live with the common condition of epilepsy. Epilepsy is caused by disrupted electrical charges in the brain and affects 1 in 100 people in Britain.

Aldworth worked closely with the three sitters and posed the questions: ‘What is the subjective experience of having a fit like? How does epilepsy affect your life?’ For Elisabeth her fertility has been affected, for Max the periods of blankness are the most worrying and Fiona feels that the condition has a stigma attached to it which affects her ability to be open about it. The time Aldworth spends with her subjects and her innovative approach to printmaking combine to provide an image which portrays both the emotional and physical self.

Susan Aldworth is an experimental printmaker and filmmaker. She holds Research Fellowships at both Swansea Metropolitan University and London Metropolitan University. She is currently Artist in Residence at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University working on a project exploring the narratives of schizophrenia. Her work is held in public and private collections including the V&A, the British Museum and the Wellcome Collection Library.

Susan Aldworth will lead and participate in related events and lectures during the display’s run at the National Portrait Gallery including a lunchtime lecture on 18 April 2013.

Susan Aldworth, Artist, says: ‘I explore and question the relationship between mind and body. My recent work has focused on the relationship between the physical brain and our sense of self and references both neuroscience and philosophy.’

Inga Fraser, Assistant Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ’It is the great conceit of portraiture that something of the inner self is revealed in outward appearance and Aldworth’s work highlights this assumption in relation to a contemporary visual culture that is, increasingly, informed by science.’

The portraits displayed in The Portrait Anatomised were funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is a catalyst for health and healthcare improvement in Lambeth and Southwark. It supports innovation in order to create world-leading healthcare in Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust; to improve the physical and mental health of the local population; and to fulfil the vision of King’s Health Partners. The Charity advocates the benefits of arts in health and is committed towards supporting a range of arts activities and evaluating their impact on clinical outcomes and general wellbeing.  It also believes in the power of arts to raise awareness of health issues and to improve dialogue amongst and between healthcare practitioners and service users.

SUSAN ALDWORTH: THE PORTRAIT ANATOMISED is on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in Room 38A from 7 March until 1 September 2013, admission free

For further Press information, please contact: Simone Sagi, Press Manager, National Portrait Gallery: Tel. 020 7 321 6620 (not for publication) / Email [email protected]

To download press releases and images, please go to:

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE, opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm  (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross General information: 0207 306 0055  Recorded information: 020 7312 2463  Website 

Visit From Your Armchair

Self-portrait as My Father from the series Encounter  by Silvia Rosi © Silvia Rosi

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An online exhibition celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.

Visit now

Hold Still

Hold Still

Explore our community photography project, which presents a personal record of the UK during lockdown.

Explore the exhibition

Margaret Thatcher by Spitting Images Productions Ltd painted plastic, 1985

Sculptures in 360°

See sculptures and fascinating objects from our Collection from all angles.

View the 360s

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Watch highlights from our special exhibition, which had to close early in March 2020 due to lockdown.

See the video