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.

Advanced Collection search

Jacob Epstein: Portrait Sculptor

Past display archive
30 March - 24 November 2013

Room 33


Jacob Epstein
by Jacob Epstein
1959, based on a work of 1912
NPG 4126

One of the 20th century’s leading sculptors, Jacob Epstein placed portraiture at the centre of this work.  This display explores his achievement and practice through busts of artists, writers, politicians and other leading figures selected from the National Portrait Gallery Collection.  Epstein made portrait busts throughout his entire career.  Modelled in clay and cast in bronze, these likenesses were rooted in observation but experimented with an expressive approach to form and texture to evoke the physical and psychological presence of the sitter.  Ranging in date from 1916 to 1951, the works in the display include some of Epstein’s most celebrated portraits, notably his busts of Joseph Conrad, T.S Eliot, Vaughan Williams and George Bernard Shaw.

These sculptures are displayed alongside photographs of Epstein’s studio by Michael Peto and Ida Kar among others. Showing the studio space, the artist at work and sculptures in progress, these images give a vivid insight into Epstein’s artistic world.

Read Shocking sculptures? on the Gallery’s Blog, by Clare Barlow, Assistant Curator

© National Portrait Gallery, London


Our channel

View a wide collection of video content on our YouTube channel from past projects to our latest films.

Sit back and watch

Artist and sitter interviews

Get insights into creating portraiture from BP Portrait Award 2020 artists and their sitters.

Explore behind the scenes

Sleeping Awake

Watch our film created to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gallery before we closed for our major transformation project.

Hear our story