PORTRAITS on display at Compton Verney are aiming to explore and reflect on Britain in the 21st century.
As part of its year-long focus on portraiture, the latest exhibition at the country house art gallery near Wellesbourne juxtaposes ten loans from the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection with a selection of its own artworks.
‘Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery’ also coincides with the Commonwealth Games, taking place in Birmingham this summer, providing a thought-provoking link between the famous faces on display and the West Midlands.
The exhibition includes a portrait of former West Bromwich born heptathlete Denise Lewis, who won two Commonwealth gold medals.
Other sitters represented include the Edgbaston-born actress, singer and comedian Dame Julie Walters, Handsworth born and raised dub poet, writer and actor Benjamin Zephaniah, former politician Mo Mowlam, who grew up in Coventry, novelist George Elliot, who was born in Nuneaton, and infamous Leamington-born occultist Aleister Crowley.
And although born and raised in Pakistan, the Nobel Prize-winning activist Malala Yousafzai can arguably regard herself as a Brummie, having received specialist treatment at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, following a Taliban assassination attempt.
They are paired up, with explanations, with the likes Henry VIII (Crowley), Oliver Cromwell (Mowlam), King Edward VI (Yousafzai), Elizabeth I (Eliot), and 19th century Iranian statesman Mirza Abu’l Hassan Khan (Zephaniah).
The exhibition’s curator, Oli McCall, said: “Portraiture is all about people and human stories, and through this collaborative display with the National Portrait Gallery we have been able to think about some of the people from our region whose words, deeds or works of art have shaped our society and the wider world as we know it today.
“Compton Verney possesses a unique collection of portraiture representing some of the most pivotal figures in British history and some of the leading artists of their day. The collection captures an eclectic mix of approaches to portraiture and different mediums, which is something we have been able to explore further thanks to the loans from the National Portrait Gallery, which include photographs, works on paper and an intriguing video portrait which has not been displayed publicly before.”
The exhibition has been created in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery as part of their transformational Inspiring People project, which includes an extensive programme of nationwide activities.
Visit www.comptonverney.org.uk for further details on the exhibition which runs until September 4.