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Man Ray Portraits opens today, February 7, 2013 at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The first major Man Ray (1890-1976) exhibition to focus on his portraits, the show presents over 150 vintage prints and important works from international museums as well as private collections. A number of the photographs on view are on loan from the Man Ray Trust Archive. Taken between 1916 and 1968 in both Paris and the United States, many of the works have not been exhibited in the UK until now.

Born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia, Man Ray spent most of his career in Paris. He made significant contributions to the Dada and Surrealist art movements and worked in a variety of media, but became best known for his avant-garde photography as well as his fashion and portrait work. Man Ray was keen on experimentation, which led to the production of camera-less Rayographs. With the help of fellow photographer, Lee Miller (1907-1977), who was also Man Ray’s muse and lover, he invented solarisation, a technique that involves recording an image on a negative or on a photographic print, reversing the image’s tone so that dark areas appear light and vice versa.

Arranged chronologically, the exhibition features Man Ray’s portraits of artists, friends, celebrities, and lovers including Miller, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Kiki de Montparnasse (1901-1953), and Catherine Deneuve (b. 1943). Man Ray Portraits will be on view through May 27, 2013.  

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For the first time in nearly 500 years, a pair of portraits of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, will be hung together. Officials from the National Portrait Gallery in London spotted the rare, early portrait of Catherine while on a research visit to Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

While the sitter in the Palace’s portrait was originally believed to be Henry VIII’s last wife, Catherine Parr, the National Portrait Gallery’s conservation and curatorial experts noticed that the facial features, costume, and the painting’s frame suggested that the portrait was actually of Catherine of Aragon. Lambeth Palace officials agreed to loan the painting of Catherine of Aragon to the National Portrait Gallery where it has been researched extensively and has undergone conservation treatment before being displayed starting today, January 25, 2013. Technical analysis of the painting and frame, which included x-ray and raking light, revealed links between the Lambeth portrait and the Gallery’s portrait of Henry VIII from around 1520, supporting the belief that the sitter was in fact Catherine of Aragon.

Dr. Charlotte Bolland, Project Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, said, “It is wonderful to have the opportunity to display this important early portrait of Catherine of Aragon at the Gallery. Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon were married for nearly 24 years and during that time their portrait would have been displayed together in this fashion, as king and queen of England.”

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On January 3, 2013 researchers at the National Portrait Gallery in London announced that they had discovered hidden paintings beneath a number of Tudor portraits in the museum’s collection. The findings will be presented in the exhibition Hidden: Unseen Paintings Beneath Tudor Portraits in the museum’s recently remodeled Room 3.

 The exciting discoveries were made while researchers were analyzing works as part of the Making Art in Tudor Britain project, which aims to shed light on the working practices of Tudor artists through scientific techniques including infrared reflectography and x-radiography. This technical research, which allows for examination beneath the paint surface, unveiled the images behind the portraits.

Works on view include a portrait of the Lord Treasurer and poet, Thomas Sackville; a portrait of the first Earl of Dorset by an unknown artist, which boasts a completed painting of the flagellation of Christ beneath its surface; and a portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham. Walsingham was Elizabeth I’s Protestant spymaster and Secretary of State. Hidden beneath the portrait of Walsingham is a depiction of the Virgin Mary with the infant Christ and another figure believed to be Joseph or an angel.

Hidden Treasures will be on view through June 2, 2013.

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A portrait of Winston Churchill by Sir William Orpen, a renowned British portrait painter and war artist, will go on public display after years of hanging in the home of Churchill’s late grandson.

Dating back to 1916, the portrait was painted before Churchill became prime minister, but after he resigned from his post as First Lord of the Admiralty due to the failure of WWI’s Gallipoli campaign, the joint British and French operation that was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople and secure a sea route to Russia. Churchill had said that the portrait revealed his soul during one of his darkest hours.

The painting will go on display today at the National Portrait Gallery in London as part of a 10-year loan. The National Portrait Gallery said that Churchill regarded the emotionally revealing painting as the finest one of himself. The portrait was briefly on view at a 2005 exhibition at the Imperial War Museum but has otherwise remained out of public sight. Sandy Nairne, the National Portrait Gallery’s director said, “I am very pleased that the Churchill family has agreed that this outstanding portrait by William Orpen of Winston Churchill, the nation’s greatest 20th century statesman, should now be on public display.”

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For the first time, two unique groups of photographs by Cecil Beaton and David Dawson of leading British artist Lucian Freud will be exhibited at Sotheby's. Spanning different periods of the artist’s life, these intimate photographs are a testament to the unique access Beaton and Dawson were given to Freud’s inner life. Leading society portraitist Beaton was drawn to Freud when he described him ‘as a true artist and a true Bohemian’ and his photographs from the 1950’s capture Freud alone, with friends, with family and with his second wife Caroline Blackwood at their Dorset retreat, Coombe Priory.

Dawson’s photographs, taken whilst he was Freud’s studio assistant between 1999 and 2011 reveal an extraordinary insight into the artist’s life. They uncover like never before an overview of the artist’s spiritual and intellectual requirements: his love of animals, his family, his devotion to the Old Masters, and his close coterie of friends and contacts. The recent triumphant retrospective exhibition of Freud’s paintings at the National Portrait Gallery which now moves to Fort Worth, gave a valuable insight into Freud’s working methods and his sitters. Now, the lens turns to the artist himself and reveals a life every bit as tantalising as those of his models. An Artist’s Life: Photographs of Lucian Freud by Cecil Beaton and David Dawson offers a unique opportunity to view a selection of many never previously exhibited images of one of the world’s greatest artists. Focussed through the lens of Beaton in the 1950s and Dawson from 2003, these photographs link the very inauguration and culmination of Freud’s extraordinary career.

Exhibition in London: Tuesday 10 July - Saturday 11 August 2012
Open 10 AM - 5 PM Monday to Saturday. Closed Sundays

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