Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

National Portrait Gallery

September 3, 2010 · 2 Comments

I think we can all agree that the National Portrait Gallery is filled with the white and wealthy. There were very few portraits of people of color, and even then they could only be found in the modern section. I found this was also true with portraits of women. Most of the the paintings seemed to feature men. As a woman, I found this both sad and frustrating. I was also disappointed by the fact that in the earliest collections of portraits almost every face looked the same. When I commented on this to Amy, she told me that at this time sitters would pose in order to look dignified, influential, and noble. This answers some of my question, but looking beyond the posing to the actual faces, I was still struck by the replication of features. It made me seriously question the legitimacy of each likeness. I wonder to what degree the artist might have altered the sitters actual appearance and if so, was it done for a reason?
The portrait I chose, Mrs Philip de László has a bit more personality. (Photo taken from the National Portrait Gallery, http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/display/philip-de-laszlo.php)
I picked this portrait because I simply just fell in love with it. I hadn’t ever heard of Philip de Laszlo before today, but my eye was immediately drawn to his collection which featured more women than some of the other artists. This portrait is of Lucy, his wife. I think the idea of painting both her actual body and her reflection adds some originality. It is certainly mush different than the stiff dignified portraits of the Tudors and Elizabethans. The portrait reminds me more of a candid photo. Her chin rests on the palm of her hand in a very relaxed but graceful manner. But I think it is her eyes that really make the painting. Instead of looking upon her own reflection in the mirror, her gaze is focused on her husband. This changes the tone of the painting into something much more intimate and warm. It brings much more life to the sitter than the repetitive blank faces of the first portraits we saw.

Categories: 2010 Sarah
Tagged: ,

2 responses so far ↓

  •   Karl // Sep 3rd 2010 at 16:21

    I think he has great color in this portrait, and I’m always taken by the use of the mirror to give us a 3D look at the subject.

  •   mikey // Sep 3rd 2010 at 16:56

    With this as the third blog pointing out that women and non-whites are not featured prominently in the museum, we have to realize that this is no fault of the museum, but rather of the times. Not to mention that it is a British history museum, and the Brits are a white race. And in those days, women were not allowed to pursue the sorts of interests that would get a portrait done of you.

You must log in to post a comment.