MAKING the most of yet another rainy day in London my housemate and I decided to check out the National Portrait Gallery as the annual BP Portrait Award exhibition was running. Located just behind the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, the Portrait Gallery’s name sums up exactly what is inside. All different types of portraits are on display from photographs, to paintings, to some of the more abstract pieces you will be able to spot and some seriously stunning portraits from throughout the ages.
As we were there primarily for the Portrait Awards we headed straight into the exhibition to check out the contestants and the winners. The Portrait Awards have been running for thirty-three years and include a range of portraits in all types of styles. As we wandered through the gallery it was hard to believe that many of these portraits were not photos because the painting was so intricate and smooth. Some of them I really adored, such as those showing the subjects personality or those that told a story but others were just not to my taste. But let’s face it – I’m no expert when it comes to art!
We wandered back out into the contemporary section on the first floor and I was surprised to come face to face with a TV screen displaying a sleeping David Beckham. Yep, that’s right, Becks lay there sleeping and moving slowly and although I’m not a massive fan of the bloke I was mesmerised. Mostly because I spent the whole time thinking is he REALLY asleep or is he faking? Otherwise that room holds some great portraits of athletes and performers and is well worth a visit.
My favourite painting in this section was that of the two princes (Wills and Harry) looking pretty happy and relaxed which doesn’t often occur in royal portraits. Speaking of Royal Portraits if you want to see some this is the place to go! There is an excellent exhibition of Queen Elizabeth II (well it is the Jubilee Year!) called Queen Art and Image — which goes into great detail to feature portraits of the Queen throughout her 60 year reign. There are also many portraits of the royal family found in the 1900’s section.
The best thing about the Gallery is that the floors are broken down by time period. So if you’re interested in a specific part of history you can view portraits from eras. After a few rooms in the Tudor’s section I had a fair idea of what that era was like and debunked downstairs again to check out a more modern section.
The National Portrait Gallery is a beautiful old building and a perfect way to avoid the drizzle and cold. For an art lover it would be amazing but for an amateur like me it was just a nice day out and the chance to tick #8 of my London Top 100 list.