Friends & Family: British Artists Depict their Circle

Dec. 5, 2015Mar. 28, 2016
Works on Paper Room, Huntington Art Gallery

The Huntington is known for its great collection of 18th-century grand manner British portraits, public images that display their sitters’ wealth and social position as conspicuously as possible. As much status symbols as works of art, such portraits generally represent a business transaction between the artist and the person who commissioned the painting. This exhibition presents another, more personal side of British portraiture. A wide-ranging selection of small-scale portraits in various media shows how artists from the mid -18th to the early 20th centuries portrayed subjects well-known to them in the prevailing artistic styles of the day – from the fashionable pastels of the Georgian era, to the careful observations of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood a century later, to the avant-garde abstractions of the modernists. Most of these portraits were not made for display in public exhibitions, but for private reasons – as records of dear ones’ features, as gifts between friends, as lovers’ tokens. The 16 portraits on display in the exhibition, including works by artists such as Allan Ramsay, John Constable, Samuel Palmer, and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, represent a more intimate encounter between artist and subject and reveal the rich diversity of British portraiture housed in The Huntington’s art collections.