Tag Archives: portraiture

‘Portraits in Character’ by Alexander Newley at St Martin’s in-the-Fields

Alexander Newley painting Dame Judi Dench

Artist Alexander Newley is delighted to announce his solo exhibition ‘Portraits in Character – supporting St Martin-in-the-Fields’, in the Crypt of St Martin’s, Trafalgar Square from 7th to 21st November. The exhibition is to run in partnership with St Martin-in-the-Fields, a fitting location for the exhibition, with its proximity to the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery, and will mark Newley’s return to the London art world after several years in New York.


Auction to support St Martin- in-the-Fields

St martin in the Fields | Art-Pie
Saint Martin-in-the-Fields (click to enlarge)

In Spring 2017 the paintings and drawings featured in ‘Portraits in Character – supporting St Martin- in-the-Fields’, will be auctioned to benefit the work of St Martin-in-the-Fields, including their outreach with homeless people.

For more information about this auction in support of St Martin-in-the-Fields please contact StMartins@activ.org.uk

Portraits of comedians such as Dame Judi Dench

Newley collaborated with Kenneth Branagh to create a unique series of portraits of several of the leading cast from the Plays at the Garrick season, which comes to a close this November. Alexander Newley spent time with the cast over a period of one year, capturing the actors in character backstage after performances.

The result is a series of drawings and paintings capturing the aura of some of the UK’s most celebrated actors; Dame Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Adrian Lester, Derek Jacobi, Richard Madden and Lily James.

Alexander Newley commented:

Painting an actor in character adds another layer of interest for me. I’ve always been fascinated by the unknowable human self and how it variously disguises and forms itself into the mask of personality. In a theatrical portrait, that self is further warped and refracted through the mask of portrayal. I am making a portrait of their portrait, in other words, which is a fascinating game of chess on many levels.

About Alexander Newley

Alexander Newley | art-Pie
Alexander Newley

Alexander Newley is a leading contemporary portrait artist working on both sides of the Atlantic, known for his iconic depictions of major figures in the Arts including; Gore Vidal, Billy Wilder, Christopher Reeve, Oliver Stone and Steven Berkoff. His portrait of Gore Vidal, America’s infamous polemicist and wit, and his dramatic triple-portrait of Actor, Activist and former Superman star Christopher Reeve, imprisoned in his life-supporting wheelchair, form part of the permanent collection of The National Portrait Gallery at The Smithsonian in Washington DC.

About St Martin-in-the-Fields

St Martin-in-the-Fields is a landmark church, which has been serving London for centuries. The iconic building stands as a beacon in Trafalgar Square, welcoming people through its doors for services, music or simply as a place of quiet sanctuary from the bustle of central London.

St Martin’s is famous for offering a welcome and practical support to some of the most vulnerable people in society. This December marks the 90th Anniversary of the BBC Radio 4 Christmas Appeal. The money raised helps homeless people who receive shelter, food, help and advice at The Connection at St Martin’s; as well as maintaining a special Vicar’s Relief Fund which makes thousands of one off grants to vulnerable people across the UK.

Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan

Virgin of the RocksThe much hyped Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition opens at the National Gallery from today with a seven room exhibition. The display is ideal for those who adore the technicality of the line and the workings of an artist , with many drawings and paintings by Leonardo and his pupils on display.

Its build up has been felt for many months, ever since its advance booking opened in May 2011 – a long seven months before its actual opening day.

With its future opening date released then came the capped visitor numbers announcement, with the gallery saying it would restrict visitors due to an, ‘unprecedented demand’. Today (9 November) The Evening Standard has reported how the tickets have sold out until mid-December. The pressure for this display to deliver to its global audience is immense.

The exhibition brings together an impressive collection of international loans never before seen in the UK, from the Queen, America, Poland, France, Scotland and from Art Fund acquisitions.

One difference with this exhibition from others is it the first to be dedicated to Leonardo’s aims and techniques as a painter. Don’t expect reams of glorious huge paintings, though there are a few pretty ladies, curly haired men and angels.

The whole display focuses on Leonardo as an artist, his technical skills and his teaching skills, showing how his works were often finished or copied by his pupils, and in some cases edited. In particular it concentrates on the work he produced as court painter to Duke Lodovico Sforza, in Milan in the late 1480s and 1490s.

As well as finished pieces, each room is peppered with Leonardo’s preparatory and experimental sketches.

The final part of the exhibition, a few mintues walk away in the Sunley Room features a near-contemporary, full-scale copy of Leonardo’s famous ‘Last Supper’, on loan from the Royal Academy. Seen alongside all the surviving preparatory drawings made by Leonardo for the ‘Last Supper’ it makes for an interesting viewing,  but seems rather ‘tagged’ on to the exhibition.

Pieces to stop by:

The Musician (1486-7) Room 1 – An unfinished portrait demonstrating Leonardo’s skill in positioning of the face creating a life like portrait with depth.

Portrait of Bianca Maria Sforza (1493) Room 2 – Get your fill of opulence with this lavish picture showing a traditional Milanese style dress, with Leonardo’s profile technique on full view.

Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with the Ermine) © Princes Czartoryski Foundation
Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with the Ermine) © Princes Czartoryski Foundation

The Lady with an Ermine (1498-90) Room 2 – This piece is centre stage of the room and shows off Leonardo’s portraiture and colour skills. The lady almost leaps out of the canvas due to her 3/4 turned pose and the black back background, giving her a 3D quality that soon become sort after by Leonardo’s pupils.

Studies of the Nervous System (1485-8) and Studies of the Human Skull (1489) Room 3 – This is one of many anatomical studies in this room, and they took my breath away. He’s used hints of shadow and light to depict tiny features of the human body. The skull looks perfect in minature form and these observations were no doubt the ground work for his future paintings, making figures seem as real as possible. It astounds me how these delicate sketches are over 500 years old.

The Virgin of the Rocks (1493) Louvre and Virgin of the Rocks (1491/2-9 and 1506-9) National Gallery Room 4 – These pieces are obviously the focal point for this room and essentially a key point for the exhibition. They are on show together for the first time and are intended to show Leonardo’s difference in style and views of  painting and art. The earlier piece is very rich in colour and could easily fit into a church altar piece. The second is restrictive in its colour palette and the figures are more sculptural with a porcelain quality.

The Burlington Cartoon ( 1499-1500) Room 6 – This lively large piece in charcoal seems to move as you move around it. The unfinished aspect of the piece almost makes it work more, it stands out in this room. The figures are fluid and contemporary, it’s a break away and step up from Leonardo’s meticulous anatomical studies.

Two drawings of the boney structure of the head, 1489
Two drawings of the boney structure of the head, 1489 The-Royal-Collection-©-2011

Room 7 in the Sunley room has a handy time line of Leonardo’s artistic career, with significant events and works. This would of been suited to have at the beginning of the exhibition, putting this display into context even more, especially for those less familiar with his pieces. The room feels tagged on, an afterthought. It’s interesting to see the workings that may have gone into this work, and then the copy of the Last Supper is astonishing to see in its grand scale.

Head along to this exhibition for a peek into Leonardo Da Vinci’s undoubted skill as a technical drawer and creater of astonishing life like works, which capture humanity and idealised beauty in all its forms. He perhaps saw himself as a creator and observer of humanity, what’s key from the exhibition is that he was always striving for improving his skills and thankfully we get to see these still today in this exhibition.

‘If the painter wishes to see beauties that enamour him, he is the master of their production, and if he wishes to see monsterous things.. he is their lord and god.’

The exhibition is open now:  09 Nov 2011 – 05 Feb 2012 Mon – Thu, Sat, Sun 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Fri 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM Closed Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, Christmas Day.