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Love Stories from the National Portrait Gallery, London

November 13, 2021 – March 13, 2022

Humphrey Ocean, <i>Linda McCartney; Paul McCartney</i>, May 1976, bromide fibre print
Humphrey Ocean, Linda McCartney; Paul McCartney, May 1976, bromide fibre print, 196 x 292 mm. National Portrait Gallery, London. Given by Humphrey Ocean (Humphrey Anthony Erdeswick Butler-Bowdon), 2006. © National Portrait Gallery, London

This pioneering exhibition will present masterpieces from the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London, in an innovative exploration of love's role in the creation of some of the greatest masterpieces of Western art by artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, Angelica Kauffmann, David Hockney, Lee Miller, and Sam Taylor-Johnson, among others. Organized thematically with works spanning from the late 16th century to the present day, it will make the argument that ideas of love and desire have been critical to the development of portraiture since the genre's emergence in the English Renaissance. More so than other art forms, portraits—sometimes given as tokens of love—offer visual records of relationships, celebrate key moments like engagements and weddings, and serve as memorials to deceased or absent lovers.

At the heart of this exhibition is a series of real-life love stories, captured through the likenesses of sitters—from the 16th-century to storied couples like David and Victoria Beckham, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Each of the love stories sheds light on a different aspect of romantic love and the role of portraits within it through images which capture artists' obsessions with their muses to those that record tragic love affairs or celebrate the triumph of love against the odds.

From notions of romantic love as a dangerous illness at the beginning of the modern era, to today's celebration of romance as a means of finding fulfillment in life, this exhibition ultimately reveals love as a constant and defining element of the human experience over the past 450 years.

Press Release

This exhibition is organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Worcester Art Museum's presentation is made possible through the generous support from the Fletcher Foundation. This project is also funded in part by the Ruth and John Adam, Jr. Exhibition Fund, Richard A. Heald Curatorial Fund, Don and Mary Melville Contemporary Art Fund, Michie Family Curatorial Fund, John M. Nelson Fund, and Hall and Kate Peterson Fund. Related exhibition programming is supported by the Bernard G. and Louise B. Palitz Fund.

Sponsored by: Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers. Media partner: GBH.

Related Programs

Salisbury Society/VIP Party

Friday, November 12, 4:30–6pm; Salisbury Society, sponsors, and partners only (general members from 6-8pm)

Join us for an exclusive FIRST LOOK at the exhibition.

Celebrate this spectacular exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery, London. Claire Whitner, Ph.D., the Director of Curatorial Affairs and James A. Welu Curator of European Art, will be available in the gallery from 4:30-6pm to welcome you and to answer any questions about the show.

The evening will include live music and a cocktail reception. RSVP by emailing Heather Walker at heatherwalker@worcesterart.org by November 5th.

All COVID-19 safety precautions, as established by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, will be carefully followed. Masks are required inside the building.

Members Event

Friday, November 12, 6-8pm

Join us for a Members preview of Love Stories from the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Light fare and a cash bar. Docents will be available to welcome you and to answer any questions about the show.

Tickets will be timed. A link to reserve tickets will be in the November Members e-newsletter. Alternatively, RSVP by emailing Tara Leahy at taraleahy@worcesterart.org.

All COVID-19 safety precautions, as established by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, will be carefully followed. Masks are required inside the building.

Not a Member? Join today!

Selected Images

George Frederic Watts, <i>Ellen Terry ('Choosing')</i>, 1864, oil on strawboard mounted on Gatorfoam
George Frederic Watts, Ellen Terry ('Choosing'), 1864, oil on strawboard mounted on Gatorfoam, 472 x 352 mm. National Portrait Gallery, London. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1975. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Kenneth Green, <i>Peter Pears; Benjamin Britten</i>, 1943, oil on canvas
Kenneth Green, Peter Pears; Benjamin Britten, 1943, oil on canvas, 715 x 969 mm. National Portrait Gallery, London. Given by Mrs Mary Behrend, 1973. © National Portrait Gallery, London
George Woodbine, for Daily Herald, <i>The wedding of Nellie Adkins and Ras Prince Monolulu (Peter Carl MacKay)</i>, 21 August, 1931, modern bromide print from original negative
George Woodbine, for Daily Herald, The wedding of Nellie Adkins and Ras Prince Monolulu (Peter Carl MacKay), 21 August, 1931, modern bromide print from original negative, 140 x 192 mm. National Portrait Gallery, London. Given by Sidney Buckland, 2001. © Science & Society Picture Library / National Portrait Gallery, London
Sir Anthony van Dyck, <i>Venetia, Lady Digby</i>, c. 1633-1634, oil on canvas
Sir Anthony van Dyck, Venetia, Lady Digby, c. 1633-1634, oil on canvas, 1011 x 802 mm. National Portrait Gallery, London. Purchased with help from the Pilgrim Trust, 1984. © National Portrait Gallery, London
Wim Heldens, <i>Harry Djanogly; Carol Ann Djanogly</i>, 2017, oil on canvas
Wim Heldens, Harry Djanogly; Carol Ann Djanogly, 2017, oil on canvas, 1250 x 1400 mm. National Portrait Gallery, London. Commissioned, 2018. © National Portrait Gallery, London