One of our favourite places in London is in St Martin’s Place, just around the corner from Trafalgar Square and opposite the famous church. It is the National Portrait Gallery. The first portrait gallery in the world, it was established in 1856 and finally settled in its current location in 1896. It is an endlessly intriguing place that rewards even a short visit. The portraits are wonderful, depicting important and famous people; they are selected on the basis of the significance of the sitter, not that of the artist. Nevertheless there are many significant artists represented.
But you don’t need to go to London this year; you can go to Bendigo instead to see some of the London NPG’s most important portraits. The exhibition – Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits – is now on show until 14 July. More than 150 works from the NPG trace the history of the British monarchy and major events from the sixteenth century to the present. The collection, stylishly hung in Bendigo, includes many of the most accomplished portraits produced in the last 500 years from Holbein, van Dyck, Kneller, Reynolds, Beaton, Snowdon, Warhol to the contemporary photographer Annie Leibovitz. Adding a valuable dimension, Bendigo Art Gallery has secured key loans of historic fashion and personal effects which are displayed alongside the magnificent and imposing portraits. The enterprising Bendigo Art Gallery is to be congratulated on securing this fascinating, beautiful exhibition.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free