Almost all artists produce portraits at some point in their careers. This online exhibition includes a diverse number of examples.
Edith Rimmington’s ‘prize fight’ deals with our habitually prejudiced concept of man and animal in a deeply ironic way, comparing the phrenologist approach of man’s mind with that of a butcher. A more realistic approach allows the artist to demonstrate his or her skills as a trained draughtsman. Robert Austin’s Portrait of a Young Girl, 1936 shows an extraordinary sweetness of line in what is a beautifully unified composition.
Campbell Dodgson, keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, who compiled the standard reference work on Austins’ work, was sufficiently moved to compare his work to that of Durer noting that Austin had more than a touch of that master in him’. In a similar manner, Arnold Mason’s portrait of Winifred Knights reveals such proficiency that through the subtle use of light and contrast, Mason manages to combine both a sense of serenity and urgency: the moment is slipping away as her awakening could be imminent. This, in part, explains why despite the unfinished nature of the sketch, Mason may have chosen to focus primarily on the subject’s facial features. Another profile portrait of Winifred Knights is included in this series by Sir Thomas Monnington, whom Knights married subsequently to her engagement with Arnold Mason. Whilst portraits do not necessarily have to be of friends, family or lovers, this is a pattern within artistic circles: Mason and Knights, Knights and Gill, Dodd and Phibbs or even Stanley’s portrait of Gilbert as a young boy all show close proximity between the artist and the subject. Portraits of soldiers, models and self-portraits can also be seen in this series.