Love Stories

Past national and international programme archive
13 November - 13 March 2022

Worcester Art Museum: USA

Free with museum admission

With around 100 masterpieces from the National Portrait Gallery, Love Stories traces the role of portraiture on the changing face of love from sixteenth-century Renaissance-era painting to contemporary photography. Some of the world’s most famous passionate affairs, long-lasting companionships, and, sadly, also heartbreaks are captured in the love stories of couples including, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, and Emma Hamilton and Lord Nelson, among others. Whether as love tokens, historical records, or enduring images that outlast human mortality, the works in Love Stories serve as visual records of spring flings and slow burns. Moreover, they record the diverse expressions of human affection and attachment. Through these paintings, sculptures, photographs, and drawings—created over a span of five hundred years—we can see that love and the relationships it forges take many different forms. 

From the sixteenth century onwards, British portraiture has been closely bound up with ideas of love and desire.  Research for this exhibition has combined anthropological and art-historical approaches to explore the active role that portraiture has played in love stories. Portraits record relationships, memorialise dead or absent lovers, act as love tokens, and reflect the changing mores of the societies in which they are created. This relationship will be illustrated through the work of some of Britain’s best known artists, including Anthony Van Dyck, Joshua Reynolds, Angelica Kauffman, G. F. Watts, Vanessa Bell, Man Ray, Lucian Freud, Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibowitz.