The National Portrait Gallery (up there as one of our favourite London galleries) marks its 150th birthday this year and, as you’d imagine, there’s a few things going on in the way of celebration.
First off the NPG have installed a series of what they call ‘interventions’ in the various galleries, each of which is designed to “display or portrait represents a significant moment in the Gallery’s development”. So you’ve got portraits of all the significant individuals who share the NPG’s birthday of 1856 (including George Bernard Shaw and Sigmund Freud), the first photograph accepted for the main Collection, the first bequest to enter the collection, and a commissioned portrait of the Queen which caused a bit of a stir when it was unveiled in 1970.
Another key painting in the NPG’s history is undoubtedly the ‘Chandos’ portrait, the first painting to be presented to the newly-founded Gallery back in 1856 and thought to be of someone called William Shakespeare.
The actual identity of the man in the picture has never been proven but that hasn’t stopped the NPG compiling an exhibition examining biography and portraiture along with five other “contender” portraits purporting to represent Shakey.
The fact that the Gallery are also throwing in the resuts of new technical analysis on some of the pictures, and presenting “original documents relating to Shakespeare’s life and portraits of his contemporaries” should make it worth a visit.