In the autumn of 2021 the outstanding collection of portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, London, will be on view in Leeuwarden. The exhibition Icons: Masterpieces from the National Portrait Gallery will include paintings, photographs, sculptures, prints and drawings by outstanding artists worldwide: from Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck to Andy Warhol and Marlene Dumas. Among those portrayed are world-famous icons, from Queen Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare to Audrey Hepburn, David Beckham and Malala Yousafzai. With almost 100 masterpieces, Icons explores the complex and fascinating genre of portraiture. Thanks to a large renovation of the National Portrait Gallery, this unmatched collection can be seen just this once in the Netherlands.
Ever since prehistoric times we have been fascinated by the human image. How do we see others and how do we want others to see us? Portraits are still extremely important when it comes to proclaiming status and projecting one’s self-image. Icons shows how masters from the Western tradition have expressed this fascination throughout the centuries. The diversity and the social function of portraits are explored in relation to the themes of power, fame, identity, self-portraiture, innovation and love and loss. Amongst the traveling paintings is a spectacular portrait of Queen Elizabeth I from 1575. Dazzling jewels and clothing symbolise her wealth and authority. Also on display in Leeuwarden is a self-portrait of the celebrated contemporary artist David Hockney, who portrayed himself life-size on the canvas without referencing any sketches or photographs. The exhibition is complemented by several works from the collection of the Fries Museum, where portraiture has a long tradition and identity is also an important theme. These additions to the exhibition illustrate the connections between the British and the Frisian collections. An English-language catalogue will accompany the exhibition.
national portrait gallery
The National Portrait Gallery in London was founded in 1856. With more than 215,000 works, the museum has the world’s largest collection of portraits. These portraits tell the stories of influential men and women throughout British history. Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Icons offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see a selection of the Gallery’s most cherished portraits together internationally, while the building in London is temporarily closed for our Inspiring People redevelopment. During the closure period hundreds of works from our Collection will travel across the UK and overseas, and we are delighted to be able to share the Gallery’s Collection in such an unprecedented way for new audiences across the world to enjoy.’ Inspiring People project, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, will see the National Portrait Gallery undergo a major transformation, including a comprehensive re-display and re-interpretation of the Gallery’s Collection. In order to complete the project efficiently, the Gallery has temporarily closed to the public from 29 June 2020 until spring 2023. During this time, the Gallery will share hundreds of works from its unique Collection, some of which are rarely loaned, through a series of partnerships and collaborations.
This exhibition is organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden.
Icons is made possible thanks to support from the Province of Friesland, the Municipality of Leeuwarden, Provincie Fryslân, Gemeente Leeuwarden, Blockbusterfonds, BankGiro Loterij, Wassenbergh-Clarijs-Fonteinstichting, Meindersma Sybenga Stichting, Old Burger Weeshuis, Leeuwarder Ondernemersfonds and Stichting Het Nieuwe Stads Weeshuis.
The Fries Museum is co-financed by the Province of Friesland, the Municipality of Leeuwarden, the BankGiro Lottery and the Ir. Abe Bonnema Foundation.