A series of works are being displayed at the National Gallery as the National Portrait Gallery embarks on its transformational Inspiring People project, which will see hundreds of works from the Gallery's Collection shared across the UK. The first portrait to go on display at the National Gallery is the Gallery's famous Henry VIII cartoon by Hans Holbein the Younger (1536-1537), is now on display for the first time in over 20 years next to the painting that partly inspired it, Holbein's The Ambassadors.
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: "We are delighted our renowned Holbein cartoon has gone on display at the National Gallery, where it can be seen in an enlightening new conext alongside The Ambassadors, which partly inspired it."
Other portraits to be loaned to the National Gallery include Sir Anthony van Dyck's self-portrait, circa 1640; John Playfair, 1811, by Sir Henry Raeburn; and Gwen John's self-portrait, circa 1900.
King Henry VIII; King Henry VII
by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1536-1537, NPG 4027
To commemorate the strength and triumphs of the Tudor dynasty, Henry VIII commissioned from Holbein a wall-painting for Whitehall Palace; this was completed in 1537. The immediate impetus for the commission may have been the birth or the expectation of the birth of Henry's son Edward, later Edward VI, in October 1537. The mural may have been in Henry's Privy Chamber and therefore have had a select, restricted audience rather than being an image of wider propaganda. This very large drawing is the preparatory drawing or cartoon for the left-hand section of that wall-painting, and shows Henry with his father Henry VII, the founder of the dynasty. The right-hand section showed Henry VIII's third wife Jane Seymour (1509?-37) and his mother Elizabeth of York (1465-1503). Holbein's painting was destroyed in the Whitehall Palace fire of 1698, and the cartoon for the right-hand side section is lost. The appearance of the whole painting is however recorded in a mid-seventeenth century copy by Remegius van Leemput in the Royal Collection.
Sir Anthony van Dyck
by Sir Anthony van Dyck, circa 1640, NPG 6987
This portrait is one of three known self-portraits painted by van Dyck when he was in England, and it probably dates from the last years of his life. The artist shows himself fashionably dressed but apparently in the act of painting, the line of his right shoulder and sleeve suggesting his hand raised in the process of applying paint to a canvas just out of sight. The broad handling of the paint in the costume, compared with the face, may indicate that this area of the painting is unfinished, or it may be that this is simply a more experimental work than his formal court portraits. The frame of this painting, crested with the sunflower motif associated with the artist, is of outstanding importance and is likely to have been designed with van Dyck's involvement.
by Sir Henry Raeburn, circa 1811, NPG 840
Mathematician, geologist and Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University, John Playfair helped to create the modern science of geology. He began his career as tutor to Robert and Ronald Ferguson of Raith, the subjects of Henry Raeburn's portrait 'The Archers' in the National Gallery.
Born in Scotland, Henry Raeburn was first apprenticed to a goldsmith, but turned to painting miniatures, in which art he was apparently self-taught. In around 1780 Raeburn married Ann Leslie, a wealthy widow, and was able to travel and study in Italy under Pompeo Batoni. Upon his return to Edinburgh, Raeburn became a prolific and fashionable portrait artist. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1815, was appointed king's limner for Scotland and was knighted in 1823.
by Gwen John, circa 1900, NPG 4439
This self-portrait was painted when Gwen John was at the beginning of her artistic career. She had followed her brother Augustus to the Slade School of Art in London, where she studied from 1895 to 1898, winning a prize for figure composition. On leaving she worked briefly in Paris with Whistler and returned to London in 1899, where she began to exhibit her work and where this portrait appears to have been painted. It is one of two self-portraits from this period: the other is in the Tate Gallery, and presents a somewhat wistful characterisation of the artist, whereas here the jutting hand on hip and a stance which seems deliberately to burst the bounds of the picture frame, allied to an expression of watchful superiority, indicate a much more confident view of herself.
Lord George Stuart, 9th Seigneur of Aubigny
by Sir Anthony van Dyck, circa 1638, NPG 5964
Stuart's portrayal here suggests nothing of the political situation that was about to overwhelm him and his family. He is shown as a shepherd, standing in an Arcadian landscape. The Latin motto can be translated, 'Love is stronger than I am', and probably refers to his secret marriage, against the wishes of her parents, to Lady Katherine Howard.
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