‘During 2017, the Gallery has the opportunity to display some portraits from the Collection that are not usually hung. For this trail, I have chosen some of my favourites from this selection together with some key portraits with which visitors might be more familiar. I hope you enjoy discovering the stories of these individuals with me.’
Henry VIII and Henry VII by Hans Holbein the Younger, ink and watercolour, circa 1536-1537 NPG 4027
Images of power don’t come much more potent than this. Although this is a preparatory drawing for a now lost wall-painting, the majesty and sheer force of character of Henry VIII is clearly evident in this exquisitely drawn ink and watercolour on paper.
John Donne by Unknown English artist, oil on panel, circa 1595 NPG 6790
One of the greatest English poets, this portrait presents the sitter with his arms folded and head slightly turned away from us as a somewhat withdrawn and enigmatic figure – one whose poems would speak for him.
William Shakespeare associated with John Taylor oil on canvas, feigned oval, circa 1600-1610 NPG 1
This is the first work acquired by the National Portrait Gallery – a portrait of William Shakespeare, the actor and playwright. It is the only portrait of him that has a good claim to have been painted from life.
Chevalier d’Eon by Thomas Stewart, after Jean Laurent Mosnier, oil on canvas, 1792 NPG 6937
The trailblazing story of the Chevalier d’Eon is an astonishing example of the level of tolerance and acceptance that was possible long before transgender issues were acknowledged or discussed.
Sarah Siddons by Gilbert Stuart oil on canvas, 1787 29 1/2 in. x 24 1/2 in. (749 mm x 622 mm) Given by John Thadeus Delane, 1858 NPG 50
Describing herself as an 'ambitious candidate for fame' Sarah Siddons may sound like an image-savvy precursor to our celebrity and selfie saturated present, but she was also, crucially, a master at her craft. Her poise and intelligence radiate from this portrait by Gilbert Stuart.
Tilly Losch by Emil Otto ('E.O.') Hoppé gelatin silver print, 7 May 1928 NPG P1995
Emil Hoppé was among the most sought-after celebrity portraitists of his day. This portrait of the dancer and actress Tilly Losch goes beyond the celebrity and is psychologically charged with a bold, modernist, pared down aesthetic.
William Wilberforce by Sir Thomas Lawrence, oil on canvas, 1828 38 in. x 43 in. (965 mm x 1092 mm) Given by executors of Sir Robert Harry Inglis, 2nd Bt, 1857 NPG 3
The unfinished status of this painting appears to make it all the more expressive and evocative - capturing, as it does, an extraordinary man still battling for the cause he so fervently believed in and in pain as he sat for this portrait, towards the end of his life.
Gwen John by Gwendolen Mary ('Gwen') John, oil on canvas, circa 1900 NPG 4439
Here, Gwen John appears as a confident and assertive woman, which she would have to be as she tried to forge a career for herself as a painter in a world still dominated by men.
Joseph Edward Southall and Anna Elizabeth Southall by Joseph Edward Southall, egg tempera on linen, 1911 39 1/2 in. x 19 3/4 in. (1003 mm x 503 mm) Lent by Judith D. Smyth, 1998 NPG 7020
This arresting portrait represents two of the leading members of the Arts and Crafts movement at the height of their success. Recent research into the painting’s symbolism has revealed it as an image of this married couple’s artistic partnership.
Amy Winehouse (‘Amy Blue’) by Marlene Dumas oil on canvas, 2011 NPG 6948
Amy Winehouse so quickly transitioned from tabloid headline to myth, and this astute and moving painting by Marlene Dumas (appropriately drawing from a media image of the singer) seems to capture perfectly both the singer’s charisma and her sorrow.
David Hockney by David Hockney oil on canvas, 2005 72 in. x 36 in. (1829 mm x 914 mm) Purchased with help from the proceeds of the 150th anniversary gala and Gift Aid visitor ticket donations, 2007 NPG 6819
Here, one of Britain’s most celebrated living artists explores his fascination with mirrors, and the relationship between artist and model. The sitter, Charlie Scheips, watches the painting unfold, and the viewer also gains an insight into the process of creating the portrait.