PRINT September 2000


“Painting the Century” at London's National Portrait Gallery

FROM THE CELEBRATORY FACES of commissioned canvases to satirical caricatures for the press, the tradition of portraiture is endlessly revealing of an era and its mores. This eternal fascination with face and figure has inspired a millennium exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery ("Painting the Century,: Oct. 26,2000–Feb. 4, 2001) which, if it works, will surely be both popular and enlightening. Robin Gibson, the gallery's chief curator, has selected one portrait from each year of the twentieth century. The idea is hardly complex, nor could it possibly initiate a profound study of the genre in a century that saw the disappearance of the official portrait, countless movements eschewing such direct representation, and stiff competition from photography. Despite these challenges, however, portraiture—battered, transformed, decanted—has survived, and the variety of images on

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