The face of Britain by Simon Schama

Simon Schama is an experienced career historian, with a special interest in art history. This volume, accompanying the BBC series of the same name, is a long discursive treatise on how to understand and interpret the FaceOfBritain_SPLA_3517136chistory of a nation through portraiture.

It is as much a study of the relationships between sitters and their artists, as it is of the characters of the subjects themselves. Every painting has a context, and every context has a past history of events and people that lead up to the moment of the portrait being done. We learn about the intentions of the sitters and how they melded, or not, with the intentions of the artist. The portrait, ultimately, had everything to do with the immortality of the sitter, and the legacy of a life lived.

From the ‘warts and all’ representation of Oliver Cromwell to the stately majesty of Elizabeth I, every portrait tells its own story. And the story told by Graham Sutherland’s fateful portrait of Winston Churchill, destined to be hung in Parliament for future generations, was so grotesque to the sitter himself, that it ended up on a bonfire in the garden of Chartwell. It was just too curmudgeon for the likes of many.sutherland-1-EDIT-Kopie


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on December 23, 2015, in Book reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Sutherland’s portrait was one of the exhibits at the Tate’s excellent “Gallery of Lost Art” online exhibition a few years ago (virtually, of course), along with a variety of other artworks that have been lost, stolen, destroyed or otherwise ceased to be.

    Most of the Gallery has itself been deleted, but there is a book. See

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