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"Return to Life: A New Look at the Portrait Bust"
2001-02-07 until 2001-05-20
National Portrait Gallery
London, , UK United Kingdom

This exhibition celebrates a form of portraiture that was enormously prestigious in Britain for over 250 years but that has now fallen into neglect. The portrait bust is one of the most common forms of sculpture, frequently encountered in our public spaces, both inside and out. But, in spite of its ubiquitous presence and our apparent familiarity with its appearance, this is an art form that seems to have little relevance to us today. This exhibition challenges this neglect and invites visitors to look again at these objects.

Including work by well-known sculptors such as Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Sir Jacob Epstein and Sir Francis Chantrey, as well as work by less familiar practitioners including Samuel Joseph and Kathleen Scott, the exhibition displays famous faces, such as Cicero, William Pitt, Sir David Wilkie, Sir Osbert Sitwell, Charles Fox and John Galsworthy, alongside little known family members. It juxtaposes old age and youth, vigour and repose, the extrovert against the introspective.

A short introductory section presents four examples which embody the spaces in which busts would typically have been found at different moments of time: the eighteenth-century library, the nineteenth-century civic space, the early twentieth-century exhibition hall and the late twentieth-century museum store. Other sections consist of groups of busts from across the period spanned by the exhibition, one focusing on the overall design of the bust and the other on the treatment of the face and features.

Return to Life: A New Look at the Portrait Bust has been produced by the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, the National Portrait Gallery, London and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

Publication
A fully-illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, published by the Henry Moore Institute. It includes an introduction by the exhibition curators and essays by Malcolm Baker of the Victoria & Albert Museum and John Gage, formerly of the University of Cambridge. It is available from the Gallery Bookshop, price 9.99.

IMAGE:
Elizabeth Goodman-Banks by Joseph Gotts, 1828
Leeds Museums Galleries (Lotherton Hall)


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