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National Portrait Gallery First World War Centenary

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Start Date:27th February 2014
End Date:15th June 2014
National Portrait Gallery First World War Centenary

The National Portrait Gallery is to stage the first national exhibition of the First World War centenary commemorations in February 2014. The Great War in Portraits (27 Feb-15 Jun 2014) will be the start of a four-year public programme at the Gallery of displays and events, and workshops for young people.

Showing how the First World War was depicted and reported with a degree of visual detail unprecedented in the history of conflict, the exhibition includes photography and film as well as formal portraits. Rather than presenting a military history of the War, the Gallery aims to focus on the way the Great War was represented through portraits of those involved, an approach never previously adopted.

The Great War in Portraits takes an international perspective. As well as iconic portraits of Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Winston Churchill, the exhibition reflects the war experience of those from all social classes who served from throughout the Commonwealth and contrasts these portraits with rare important loans of major art works by Lovis Corinth and Max Beckmann and Kirchner�s painting Selbstbildnis als Soldat (Self-portrait as a Soldier). These German expressionist masterpieces are strikingly exhibited together, for the first time, with Harold Gillies� rarely shown photographs of facially injured soldiers from the Royal College of Surgeons.

Highlights also include Jacob Epstein�s The Rock Drill, one of the great early modernist works related to the War; a contrasted pairing of British and German films devoted to the Battle of the Somme never previously seen together; and a rare photograph by Jules Gervais Courtellemont depicting a deserted, battle-scarred landscape. The only work in the exhibition not to depict people, this poignant image is, in effect, a portrait of absence.

Starting with the eve of war, the exhibition includes imposing formal portraits of the heads of state of the participating nations, evoking those countries that would be drawn into the conflict in 1914. Such grand images are brought into sharp contrast with an understated press photograph of a pathetic-looking Gavrilo Princip, the 19-year-old student whose opportunistic assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, on 28 June 1914 precipitated the First World War.

Venue Map

Images from National Portrait Gallery First World War Centenary

Image 1

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