Thatcher joins Elvis and Cantona among icons of 20th century art

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Lenin, Eric Cantona and Baroness Thatcher are not natural bedfellows. But their images will appear side by side today at an exhibition of some of the most iconic figures of the past century.

Lenin, Eric Cantona and Baroness Thatcher are not natural bedfellows. But their images will appear side by side today at an exhibition of some of the most iconic figures of the past century.

The millennium exhibition, Painting the Century, at the National Portrait Gallery, in central London, brings together 101 portrait masterpieces, lent from collections around the world, many of which have never before been exhibited in Britain.

Divided into 10 decades, the exhibition features one portrait from every year of the 20th century, each chosen for its artistic, cultural or historical significance at the time.

The diverse range of sitters includes royalty - Queen Victoria - and world leaders - such as Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler and Lady Thatcher - alongside figures from music (Elvis, Mick Jagger and David Bowie), sport (including Eric Cantona), science (Pavlov, Zeppelin), and literature (Edith Sitwell and Thomas Keneally).

A spokesman for the gallery said: "The exhibition provides a panoramic view of some of the cultural and historical milestones of an unsettled era. It will also reflect the extraordinary revolutions and the survival of traditional modes which have characterised the art of the last century."

The exhibition, accompanied by four programmes on Icons of the Century on Channel 5, includes works chosen for historical significance, including Lenin in Red Square (1924) by Isaak Brodski and George Grosz's Cain or Hitler in Hell (1945).

But the portraits by artists such as Sargent, Munch, Picasso, Bacon, Freud, Warhol, and Hockney embrace most artistic movements of the 20th century including Art Nouveau (Mucha's Josephine Crane Bradley as Slavia), Futurism (Dottori's Portrait of the Duce), Cubism (Leger's portrait of Charlie Chaplin), Surrealism (an unusual portrait by Dali of the industrialist Sir James Dunn, La Turbie) and Photo-Realism (Chuck Close's major work Bob).

Andy Warhol's iconic portrait Elvis (1963), from a film still for the western Flaming Star, conveys the sexuality and element of danger which epitomised male glamour at the time. Richard Hamilton's Swinging London 67 (1968) shows Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser before their drugs convictions. David Beckham, Eric Cantona and others of Manchester United are in Michael Browne's 1997 The Art of the Game.

The exhibition, on until 4 February, also includes the boy/girl diptych by Marty St James, for 2000.

Comments