Exposed: The Naked Portrait

This is a historic exhibition. It is no longer available to visit and this page is only retained as a record of the previous event. For current and future exhibitions, visit our What's On page.

An exhibition jointly curated between the National Portrait Gallery and the Laing Art Gallery

Mick Jagger; Jerry Hall by Norman Parkinson, Jul 81 © Norman Parkinson Iconic Images


Until 3 March 2019 (historic exhibition)


As featured in 

⭐️ The Times

⭐️ The Guardian (pick of the week!)

⭐️ Italian Vogue

⭐️ i Newspaper

⭐️ Narc Magazine

Facebook discount:

20% discount on admissions throughout February (Wednesdays & Thursdays only). Click here to claim.

Please note due to the explicit nature of this exhibition those aged 16 years and below must be accompanied by an adult.

This exhibition of unclothed portraits from the National Portrait Gallery Collection invites questions about identity and gender, the real and ideal. It includes portraits of exposed sitters from Nell Gwyn to Naomi Campbell, Gilbert & George to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Featured artists include Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, Sam Taylor-Johnson, David Hockney, Annie Leibovitz, Linda McCartney, Tracy Emin, David Bailey, Mario Testino and Dorothy Wilding. This exhibition is a partnership jointly curated between the National Portrait Gallery and the Laing Art Gallery.

Exposure has more than one meaning. It can describe harmful or welcome experiences: the revelation of a shameful secret or the achievement of longed-for publicity for a person or cause. It can refer to acute vulnerability or complete self-assurance. The various meanings of ‘exposed’ can be found in the portraits in this exhibition.

A distinction is often made between the naked and the nude. Nakedness is associated with authenticity – ‘the naked truth’. In contrast, the nude belongs to a tradition of idealised figures that extends back to ancient Greece and was central to artistic training from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century.

The exhibition is divided into two parts; Bodies of Desire focuses on the vital role of gender and sexuality in portraiture and how it exhibits elements associated with the nude such as an interest in the eroticised or idealised body. In close juxtaposition, Reclaiming the Body addresses postmodern and feminist theory and ways in which it has brought about a reappraisal of the naked body in art.

All of the images in Exposed are naked portraits rather than depictions of the nude. This is due to their focus on particular individuals. There are numerous reasons for artists to create naked portraits and for sitters to pose for them. Freed from the social and cultural markers of clothing, naked portraits enable artists to explore various expressive and formal questions. The portraits in this display show that naked portraits can be flattering or honest, seductive or shocking, vulnerable or liberating.

This exhibition is accompanied by a display of portraits from the Laing Art Gallery and Hatton Gallery in gallery C. This display is part of the offer for Exposed and is included in the ticket price. 

Highlights include key works by leading artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, Allan Ramsay, William Orpen, George Clausen and Chris Ofili, Thomas Lawrence, Augustus John, Sir John Lavery, Beryl Fowler and Christina Robertson.

Image: Mick Jagger; Jerry Hall by Norman Parkinson, July 81 © Norman Parkinson / Iconic Images (detail)


National Portrait Gallery National Portrait Gallery