Face to face with the Bard

Emily Allen Exhibitions Officer with the death mask (or plaster cast of life mask) of John Keats on display as part of the Writers of Influence Exhibition at Sunderland Museum
Emily Allen Exhibitions Officer with the death mask (or plaster cast of life mask) of John Keats on display as part of the Writers of Influence Exhibition at Sunderland Museum
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ONE of the most important portraits of William Shakespeare is set to go on display on Wearside.

In a major coup for the city, the Chandos painting of the Bard goes on show at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens tomorrow – the first time the painting has been shown in the UK outside London.

Emily Allen, Exhibitions Officer at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens with the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare which is being displayed outside of London for the first time as part of the Writers of Influence Exhibition.

Emily Allen, Exhibitions Officer at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens with the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare which is being displayed outside of London for the first time as part of the Writers of Influence Exhibition.

Not much is known about Shakespeare himself and the artwork is the only portrait of him that has any claim to have been painted from life.

It is believed to have been painted between 1600 and 1610, and it is thought to have served as the basis for the engraved portrait of Shakespeare used in the First Folio in 1623.

Emily Allen, exhibitions officer, said: “It is an amazing privilege that the National Portrait Gallery have allowed it to tour and come to Sunderland.

“It is normally on permanent display at the gallery and is one of the stars of their collection.”

She added: “We have had a partnership with the National Portrait Gallery for about eight years which we have built upon. It has allowed us to bring collections from London to Sunderland.”

The iconic Chandos portrait was the first work acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1856 and is listed as number one in its collection.

It is named after James Brydges, thirrd Duke of Chandos, an early owner, and is part of the Writers of Influence exhibition which goes on display tomorrow until March 27.

The new exhibition of over 60 works from the National Portrait Gallery celebrates Britain’s finest literary talents, from Jane Austen to Jarvis Cocker.

It brings together a series of paintings, drawings, and photographs dating from the 16th century to the present day and features images of authors, playwrights, poets and lyricists.

Among the star portraits featured are images of George Byron, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl, Zadie Smith, J.K. Rowling and Dizzee Rascal, plus North East favourite Dame Catherine Cookson, as well as casts taken from the faces of John Keats and William Blake.

The exhibition includes work by Vanessa Bell, Henri Cartier Bresson, Man Ray, Patrick Heron and Lord Snowdon.

Emily said: “It’s very exciting for us as a museum to have this range of art work on display. We have 61 pieces of some of the most renowned figures in literature. As part of the project we consulted with youth forums to get young people’s opinions on who is an inspiration to them. They highlighted lyricists such as John Lennon who we might not otherwise have thought to include.

“It just goes to show the power of words. A song can be as important as novel or poem.”