Canberra - it's time to prepare for a British invasion of the artistic kind.
Shakespeare, Amy Winehouse, Ed Sheeran, The Beatles, David Bowie - they're all coming to the capital as part of the National Portrait Gallery's upcoming blockbuster.
More than 80 treasures from the National Portrait Gallery London will travel to Canberra for the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, Shakespeare to Winehouse.
It will include iconic works that normally feature in the London gallery's permanent displays, and rarely - if ever - leave its walls. But while the National Portrait Gallery in London undertakes its largest refurbishment since 1896, some of its most significant works will travel to Canberra for an exclusive Australian exhibition from March 12, 2022.
"The National Portrait Gallery London is the world's first and foremost portrait gallery, with a vast and enviable collection that spans centuries, genres and mediums," National Portrait Gallery director Karen Quinlan said.
"The majority of these portraits have never been seen in Australia before, so this is a rare and welcome opportunity for us to present not only the iconic historical works such as the portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare, but also contemporary portraits that draw on new mediums and digital technologies."
Some of the best-known faces in British and international history are included, such as Queen Elizabeth I, David Beckham, Princess Diana, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Malala Yousafzai, Kate Moss, Anna Wintour, and Mick Jagger. As well as featuring famous sitters, the works are by acclaimed artists including Peter Paul Rubens, Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Shirin Neshat.
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"I think you can extract so much richness from this exhibition, if you're interested in literary heroes, if you're interested in science, if you're interested in the arts, if you're interested in royalty, it's all here," Ms Quinlan said.
"There are all different styles and approaches, and right up until the 21st century, where we've got some very contemporary ways of representing people and faces."
Rather than a chronological display, works will be grouped into six interrelated themes of Fame, Power, Love and Loss, Identity, Innovation, and Self Portraits.
The exhibition - which usually goes by the title of Icons and Identities at the National Portrait Gallery London - will show the history of portraiture through images of notable people. It will display not only how styles of portraiture have changed over the centuries, but also how people wanted to be depicted at certain points in time.
There's a certain juxtaposition of the two sitters which inspired the Australian iteration's title. Aside from the fact they represent two ends of the exhibition's timeline, they're also examples of a portrait that was created during the sitter's lifetime and one created posthumously.
"The portrait of Shakespeare was actually the Portrait Gallery London's first acquisition. That's one of National Portrait Gallery London's prized pieces and we feel really honoured to be showing it," Ms Quinlan said.
"It is also believed to be the only portrait he ever actually sat for. It's a nice connection between the viewer and the portrait. It's as close as you're going to get - knowing that they were in the room when the painting was painted."
"The Amy Winehouse portrait was actually completed after her death and so it's a different acquisition, in many ways. The Winehouse portrait wasn't done in her lifetime and the artist used, I believe, photographs to reference her.
"It's a small work, but it's a very powerful work. And if you know about her life and her sort of history, it has that same drama that seemed to be very much a part of her whole career and her sad ending."
- Shakespeare to Winehouse: Icons from the National Portrait Gallery London will be at the National Portrait Gallery from March 12 to July 17, 2022.
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