Saturday, November 29, 2008

National Portrait Gallery - Victorians

For my Women's Question class, Dr. Paul sent us to the National Portrait Gallery to look at the Victorian rooms and compare the portraits to what we have learned in class. It was my first time to the Portrait Gallery (I have been to the National Gallery plenty of times though), and my first reaction was eh (add the shrug in your head). But as I continued looking I found the portraits more and more interesting. They may seem boring at first but they were an interesting glimpse into the personalities of the people being painted.

This portrait of Robert Baden-Powell, by Hubert von Herkomer, was one of my favorites. It is in the military room among the stoic and almost mean-looking portraits of other great military men. (I wish I had a bigger picture to show you but the NPG won't let me get any bigger than this!) Anyways, this portrait immediately caught my eye because he was so different from the other "tough-guys" in the room. Everything about this portrait is inviting; he has a sparkle to his eye, a kind smile on his face, and a relaxed pose that I loved. So I went over to investigate and discovered the reason why. Baden-Powell is the founder of the Boy Scouts! I would have gotten along with him well because I always wished I was a Boy Scout like all the boys!

Again, because of the copyright laws I couldn't find the exact portrait (the real one is in color), but another portrait I liked was Thomas Henry Huxley's portrait by John Collier. One of the most interesting elements of the work was the skull in Huxley's hand. He holds it so casually, but with confidence.

You might imagine why this portrait of Cardinal Manning, by George Watts, caught my attention. He is literally a living skeleton. It was a lot more dramatic in person, but I walked into the room and was immediately like, "eww." However, the more I looked the more I liked. His eyes have a spark of determination and strength even though his body has nothing left.
By looking at the Victorian Galleries I realized that the social ideas we have been discussing in literature are also reflected in the other arts. The Victorian Era was one of expansion, wealth, discovery, and reform, all of which are displayed through the portraits in the National Portrait Gallery.

No comments: