The National Portrait Gallery shares walls with the National Museum, but you can’t enter one through the other. I looked forward to seeing it but perhaps a bit less-so than the other museums. Certainly I think portraiture is a great form of painting, and certainly I like the focused nature of the gallery. However, given who portraits were typically painted of, it can get a little wearing looking at so many people in powdered wigs.
I did this gallery in reverse order, starting with ultra-contemporary and going back from there. Laziness factored into this since the newest was on the bottom floor and each higher floor got older by a couple of centuries. But also since a large portion of the gallery was dedicated to the last 100 years, I was not prepared to get through the golden years and then make it to the bottom to be deflated. But it was a no-win situation since now I’d end the tour in this direction with all the powdered wigs on the top floor. Powdered wigs…modern art…powdered wigs…modern art….Yep, laziness won the day.
The National Portrait Gallery holds an annual portrait competition that is actually fairly impressive. Portrait art, even in modern times, is one of the saner fine arts as far as painting goes. The reason is quite simple: if you are painting a person, you can’t simply present your client with poo dried onto canvas and expect satisfaction. So, while modern ideas of composition and narrative have continued to transform even portraiture, it seems to maintain a larger amount of…craft…than other painting forms. So the ground floor which had this work was interesting in many places while being predictably disappointing in others.
It was a bit strange, however, to happen upon a painting by Phil Hale in this hallowed national space. some of you may know his work: I first came across it years ago when Stephen King’s “The Drawing of the Three” was published in trade paperback. between then and about 1996 or so he evolved considerably as a painter and is one of the more exciting “modern” painters around, in my estimation. He’s only tangentially speaking in the genre I work in; his dynamic compositions have enabled him occasional commissions in gaming and comics (he illustrated the first issue cover of the Halo comic book, for instance). Yet his work is rarely what one would categorize as fantasy. His world is really figurative fine art, and in that realm there are few people who have taken many of the philosophies of modern art, added a prodigious talent for actual painting and turned them into something worthwhile.
From there the usual cast of characters that have been mentioned in this series of blog entries made outstanding appearances, and they were portraits. So I won’t go much further into them this time.
Thus ends this series of museum reviews, as they turned out to be. back to our normally scheduled nonsense.
9 hours ago