|Simon Schama talking about the process of Graham Sutherland painting Sir Winston Churchill|
Simon Schama's The Face of Britain
- five new displays under the overarching title of Simon Schama's The Face of Britain - an exhibition from 16 September 2015 - 4 January 2016, at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Admission free
- a five-part TV series on BBC2 in Autumn 2015 - with the same title
- a book of the same title to be published by Viking / Penguin Random House, Hardback £30 on 16 September 2015
Rather than taking a chronological approach adopted by the permanent displays, the new temporary displays revolve around five themes:
- Power - this relates to the three different ways a portrait is considered
- the way we want to be seen (or others want people to be seen) - see the anecdote about Churchill at the end
- the job of the artist to endorse this perspective - up to a point
- the way the public views it
- Love - portraits are very often about creating pictures of people you don't want to lose
- People - This covers people from less elite backgrounds. It's not just about introspection, it's also about scrutiny and inspection - and will include 'Surveillance Photograph of Militant Suffragettes' by Criminal Record Office
- Self - the "self portrait" section will look at how the artist uses the self-portrait for self-promotion and also focus on how people adopt and/or balance out the two ways of looking at yourself:
- the narcissist - self-love
- after Montaigne - unsparing self-knowledge
What was possibly the most interesting aspect of the morning was listening to Simon Schama talk. He's extremely knowledgeable and has the ability to keep talking while hardly taking a breath, while jumping around between centuries and anecdotes. It was rather like an academic monologue - interspersed with absolutely fabulous soundbites!
The issue is what happens when we eyeball one another
We should be involved in looking at people
The function of art is endurance. You want to remember 'that look'. Portraits provide the 'x factor' which the quick 'dumbed down' version of the selfie doesn't do. They're the equivalent of white noise. Portraits deliver the music.Directing him for television must be rather interesting!
I loved his story of how the very famous photograph of Churchill by Karsh - described by Schama as the visual equivalent of "we will fight them on the beaches" - was actually the photograph of a man who was annoyed because he had just been deprived of his Havana cigar!
The papers have rather pounced on just one comment - about selfies - which he made this morning.
- The Guardian - Simon Schama announces new portrait gallery displays with attack on selfies - with lots of comments on why people don't look at one another and in support of the selfie!
- The Telegraph - Simon Schama: stop taking selfies, start looking at strangers - has what Schama actually said recorded accurately. I must start taking a recording device to these briefings!