In the frame: portraits, power and personality

When and where

24 April 2018
Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, Regents Park, London, NW1 4LE

Past event

In the frame: portraits, power and personality

Join artists, writers and curator for a revealing discussion on contemporary portraiture

The Royal College of Physicians is one of a very few organisations which continues to commission portraits of its leaders. But how do contemporary portrait artists capture a personality? How do today’s portrait sitters hope to be represented? Do we need to do away with the pomp and ceremony of the past? 

What we see depicted in portraits today has evolved dramatically over the few centuries. Less about power and status, frequently in more informal settings, and often in the medium of photography, today’s sitters and artists seem to favour individuality over prestige. Compared with the imposing ‘swagger portraits’ of the past, is the twenty-first century just shy? Or have our values as a society shifted? And how has portraiture changed as issues around representation and diversity have become more widely acknowledged?

Inspired by the RCP’s nationally-significant portrait collection, the panel made up of artists, curators and writers will explore the process by which portraits are commissioned today, the use of symbolism in contemporary portraits, and the continued fascination of portraiture as a form of representation.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has a long history of displaying, and since the 1940’s, commissioning portraits. The collection is a visual chronology of the evolution of power, symbolism, even fashion, as gradually the ‘presidential paraphernalia’ that once adorned RCP presidents of the past are dissolved to simple, even abstract, styles. 

For this exciting panel discussion, RCP museum are delighted to welcome artist Paul Benney and photographer and artist Jessica van der Weert, joined by institutional curators and writers to examine this topic.

In 2018, renowned portrait artist, Paul Benney will present his commission of outgoing RCP president, Professor Jane Dacre. The work will be officially unveiled this autumn, but this event will reveal a first look at the new portrait. Jessica van der Weert will also present her current series of photographic portraits of African physicians, part of the RCP fundraising initiative ‘Physicians for Africa’.

The RCP museum will be open until 8.30pm on the evening, including 140 portraits on public display throughout the building. Current temporary exhibition ‘Ceaseless motion: William Harvey’s experiments in circulation’ will also be open.

Many examples of the RCP portrait collection can be found on Art UK.

Ticket prices include Eventbrite booking fee.

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