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The Vintage Guide To London | October 17, 2017

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At the National Portrait Academy: The Great War in Portraits

At the National Portrait Academy: The Great War in Portraits

In viewing the First World War through images of the many individuals involved, The Great War in Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery looks at the radically different roles, experiences and, ultimately, destinies of those caught up in the conflict.

Setting the scene in 1914, the splendour and formality of portraits of national leaders are contrasted with a press photograph of Gavrilo Princip, the 19-year-old assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The narrative unfolds with power-portraits of commanders Haig, Foch and Hindenburg, asserting military authority, which are displayed together with dignified pictures of their troops by artists including Orpen, Sickert and Nevinson.

Finally, images of heroes and medal-winners are shown alongside the wounded and the fallen, representing the bitter-sweet nature of a war in which valour and selfless endeavour were qualified by disaster and suffering.

From paintings and drawings to photography and film, the exhibition considers a wide range of visual responses to ‘the war to end all wars’, culminating in the visual violence of Expressionist masterpieces by Beckmann and Kirchner.

The Great War in Portraits
27 February – 15 June 2014
Free entry
at the National Portrait Gallery