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Graham Sutherland

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Graham Sutherland

by Graham Sutherland
oil on canvas, 1977
20 3/4 in. x 19 3/4 in. (527 mm x 502 mm)
Given by Mrs Graham Sutherland, 1980
Primary Collection
NPG 5338

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

The self-portrait was painted specifically for the National Portrait Gallery's Sutherland exhibition in 1977.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 56 Read entry

    After work as a war artist, Sutherland produced Christ in Glory for Coventry Cathedral (1952). He was a controversial portrait painter: ‘It’s an outrage, but it’s a masterpiece’, said Lord Beaverbrook of his own portrait.

  • Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 120
  • Gibson, Robin, 20th Century Portraits, 1978 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 9 June - 17 September 1978), p. 24
  • Gibson, Robin; Clerk, Honor, 20th Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1993, p. 22 Read entry

    Up until the 1950s, Graham Sutherland's work was concerned with still life, landscape and anthropomorphized natural forms; his vast tapestry, commissioned in 1952 for the new Coventry Cathedral, is probably the most widely known image from this time. It was in 1948 that a chance remark resulted in his portrait of Somerset Maugham and its success led in turn to a series of paintings that rank Sutherland as Britain's most important portrait artist of the middle years of this century. The self-portrait (a rare subject for Sutherland) was painted expressly for the National Portrait Gallery's Sutherland exhibition in 1977 and was given to the Gallery by the artist's widow in 1980.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 600
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 187 Read entry

    Deal, the applied outer edge in fruitwood the sight edge in an unidentified hardwood, mitred with dovetail keys (repaired) at two corners, cut down from a larger frame, originally ebonised and subsequently gessoed and largely water gilt on a red bole and distressed, the hollow of the reverse section given a green marbled finish. 6 1⁄ 2 inches wide.

    This frame, a most unusual choice for Graham Sutherland, appears to be a late nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century ebonised ripple moulding of continental origin, which has subsequently been cut down at two corners, then gilded and painted to suit Sutherland's self-portrait. It was presumably framed by Sutherland's framemaker, Alfred Hecht, for the National Portrait Gallery retrospective in 1977, and was given to the Gallery by the artist's widow in 1980. The inner green marbled band of the frame reduces the apparent bulk of the moulding to match the size of the portrait and at the same time picks up on one of the portrait's main colours in a way unique in Hecht's work for Sutherland.

  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 237 Read entry

    Graham Sutherland painted this self-portrait for an exhibition of his portraits held at the Gallery in 1977. By then he had been painting portraits for almost forty years, but this important aspect of his work was less known than his paintings of landscapes. Sutherland began as a printmaker and his pastoral studies in this medium, which continued from the early 1920s to the mid-1930s, were influenced by Samuel Palmer. In 1934 he visited Pembrokeshire for the first time, and this area became an important inspiration for the paintings he began to make following the collapse of the print market in the 1930s. In 1948 his acquaintance with Somerset Maugham prompted him to attempt a portrait of the writer and this involved a somewhat different approach. In contrast to the process of metamorphosis that characterised his paintings of natural forms, portraiture called for accuracy and he observed that ‘in falsifying physical truth you falsify psychological truth.’ In common with his later portraits, the Somerset Maugham portrait was based on drawings made in front of the sitter. Later, he employed a system of squaring-up drawings made from life onto the canvas, as would have been the case with this penetrating portrait.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1977back to top

Current affairs

In celebration of her 25th year as Queen, Elizabeth II tours the British Isles visiting communities and schools in 36 counties, before touring the commonwealth. Across the country people held street parties to celebrate the occasion; there were 4,000 street parties in London alone.

Art and science

British punk rockers, The Sex Pistols, release the single, God Save The Queen to coincide with the Silvery Jubilee celebrations. The single reached Number 2 in the charts among claims that it was being kept off the top spot for political reasons. The band was arrested for trying to perform the song from a boat on the Thames during the Queen's Royal Progress trip down the river.


Elvis Presley dies of a heart attack aged 42. His body was discovered collapsed on the bathroom floor of his Graceland mansion in Memphis by his fiancée Ginger Alden. Rumours that the star is actually still alive but in hiding continue to perpetuate among diehard fans.

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