Historically portraiture has typically been concerned with recording resemblances of the great and the good, or those wealthy enough to commission a likeness. This exhibition focuses on a much humbler form of portraiture, where the sitters are the artists' intimates - their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, lovers, children, friends or indeed selves.
The close nature of these relationships is often reflected in the paintings. Toss Woollaston reflected in his autobiography that in the early years of his marriage 'I drew and drew Edith in the evenings, mostly asleep in her chair after the rigours of our primitive days.' Throughout his career he made many portraits of Edith - as muse, wife, companion and a mother - frequently engrossed in other activities as her husband paints.
The tensions of having an artist in the family and the demands of having to model for them is humorously captured by the British artist, John Bratby, in the drawing entitled "When are you going to stop drawing Dad?", in which his bored son stares into space. Harold Gilman's painting Mother and Child, despite the generic title records an intensely personal moment from his family life, portraying his wife Sylvia breastfeeding their son John.
The exhibition also includes one of the Gallery's latest acquisitions, Rita Angus's Mother and Child, 1942. The watercolour of her sister, Jean Jones, with baby son Anton, draws on the associations of such maternal imagery with portrayals of the Madonna and Child. As Ron Brownson observes though, it is also an eloquent image of familial happiness and hope during wartime.
These portraits give insights into the artists' lives, not only recording those with whom they were intimate, but also reflecting this in their portrayals.
- Main Gallery
- Free entry