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

Roy Strong at 80: Photographs by John Swannell

Past display archive
19 June - 31 August 2015

Main Hall


Renaissance Prince/ after Piero Della Francesco, by John Swannell, 2014 © John Swannell

A Victorian Man of Mystery by John Swannell, 2013 © John Swannell

This new display celebrates the eightieth birthday of the Gallery’s former director Sir Roy Strong who, with photographer John Swannell, has devised a series of portraits that transport Sir Roy through time, inventing and reinventing him as an array of historical characters.

With a sharp eye for period style and dress, careful reference to the composition, lighting and poses of famous historical portraits, and with flashes of tongue-in-cheek wit, the photographs on display mark the culmination of a five-year project in which Sir Roy reinvents himself as an array of historical figures including Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Henry VIII and Alfred Tennyson.

Some photographs in this display recreate famous portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection. A book, Sir Portrait: 30 Portraits of Roy Strong, has been launched to coincide with this installation and is available from the Gallery Shops.

© 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