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.

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Icons and Identities

Past international programme archive
29 April - 15 August 2021

National Museum of Korea (Seoul, South Korea)

Bringing together some of the most famous faces in British history alongside less well-known sitters, Icons and Identities draws upon the outstanding collections of the National Portrait Gallery to celebrate the variety and complexity of the genre of portraiture.

From William Shakespeare to Malala Yousafzai, the exhibition considers how artists and sitters across the centuries have explored themes of fame, power, love and loss, identity, innovation and the self-portrait. The investigation of these key themes demonstrates the many different roles of portraiture throughout history. It also encourages visitors to question methods of representation and how portraits reflect the identity of sitters.

The exhibition also charts the development of portraiture in the British Isles and features works by prominent artists of their time, who have challenged its traditions and expanded its possibilities, including Sir Anthony van Dyck, Thomas Gainsborough, Lucian Freud and Tracey Emin. Icons and Identities offers an extraordinary opportunity to view the highlights of the Gallery’s Collection outside the UK, which has been made possible by the major refurbishment of the London Galleries and Inspiring People Project.


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