London Museums

London’s National Portrait Gallery by Ginevra Held

My homegirl, Elizabeth I, in the National Portrait Gallery.  Go tudors!

My homegirl, Elizabeth I, in the National Portrait Gallery.  Go tudors!

The National Portrait Gallery is a portrait specific branch of the National Gallery (makes sense, doesn't it?).  Personally my favorite parts are the Tudors, from Henry VIII and all of his wives ( I heard a young girl say Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived - that is the quintessential summing up of Henry’s 6 wives - why they bloody hell they didn't teach us that in school I can not say) to Elizabeth I.  I frankly get a bit bored after that and head straight to the 1960 to 2000 area.  This is where you will see contemporary artists both as subjects and as painters, celebrities, royalty, musicians, actors, designers, the who’s who of British society and frankly its a lot of fun.

Henry VIII - I kind of really like this guy, which is sick but true. He's my favorite wife killing, religion changing, red headed monarch.

Henry VIII - I kind of really like this guy, which is sick but true. He's my favorite wife killing, religion changing, red headed monarch.

I found a new Earl to like, which is pretty significant, you don't always find Earl's you like. His name is Henry, he is the 3rd Earl of Southampton.  He was known for being flamboyant, and for having long auburn hair, which he liked to wear down, sometimes at court.  Uh yeah baby! Check this guy out.  Do you think he also rocked a man bun occasionally? God, I hope so.  Can we do a family tree and check if Mick Jagger and Harry Styles are relatives.

My new boyfriend, the 3rd Earl of Southampton (not to be confused with the 1st or 2nd, thank you very much)

My new boyfriend, the 3rd Earl of Southampton (not to be confused with the 1st or 2nd, thank you very much)

Like the Tate Modern, some of the portraits you may remember from previous visits may no longer be there.  They rotate part of their collection, mainly the contemporary part. So for example, one year there was a series of black and white photos of Kate Moss by Corinne Day, the photographer who had essentially made her famous now revisiting her subject many years later.

There was also a video of David Beckham sleeping.  Just that, David Beckham, shirtless, asleep.  Needless to say, I really liked that one.  Also needless to say, I was disappointed he was not there this time. I even asked, “Do you have the David Beckham sleeping one?” They knew exactly what I meant, and the answer was unfortunately no.

There is a Diana portrait I quite like, its from when she was first engaged, the likeness is very good and I like the setting she is in.

A portrait of Lady Diana Spencer, as this was painted during her engagement to Charles, so she wasn't Lady Di yet. I like the the interior setting (duh, interiors) and the subtle frankness of her pose.

A portrait of Lady Diana Spencer, as this was painted during her engagement to Charles, so she wasn't Lady Di yet. I like the the interior setting (duh, interiors) and the subtle frankness of her pose.

In the same gallery is Kate Middleton’s portrait.  As lovely as she is, I don’t understand how the artist got to this.  And couldn't they have chosen an artist with a bit more imagination, I mean it looks like he copied it from a Hello! magazine photo.  I don’t like it.  It doesn't do her justice and doesn't capture her at all.  

Portrait of Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton.  For such a lovely girl, I'd say this hardly does her justice either in likeness or essence.

Portrait of Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton.  For such a lovely girl, I'd say this hardly does her justice either in likeness or essence.

They have a really nice one of the Princes, which they have put with the Tudors at the moment to make it a conversation, it is thoughtful and well portrayed, an interaction between two young men, who happen to be wearing full military regalia and are at the same time, contemporary in their attitudes.  I wish someone had given the Duchess the same treatment.

I was struck by a portrait of Sir Paul Smith, the clothing designer.  Its a really nicely contextualized one of him holding a ream of fabric, he’s got a cool stance and it suggests a lot about the sitter.  

Portrait of Sir Paul Smith, the fashion designer, from the National Portrait Gallery

Portrait of Sir Paul Smith, the fashion designer, from the National Portrait Gallery

 

National Portrait Gallery - In the same building as the National Gallery, entrance around the corner to the right if facing the Gallery.

Definitely worth a look, a lot of fun to see the who’s who of England from Henry VIII to David Beckham (if you’re lucky).

Rotating collection of portraits and themes, but Henry, Elizabeth et al are always there.  I would say not to be missed, and admission to the collection is free, special exhibits are not.