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.

Clothed portraits from the Laing Art Gallery and Hatton Gallery collections

Portrait of Mrs Leathart and Her Three Children


Until 7 September 2019 (historic exhibition)


Portraiture is a very old art form going back at least to ancient Egypt, where it flourished from about 5,000 years ago. Before the invention of photography, a painted, sculpted, or drawn portrait was the only way to record the appearance of someone. A portrait is an artistic representation of a person intending to display their likeness, personality and even mood.

But portraits have always been more than just a record. They have been used to show the power, importance, virtue, beauty, wealth, taste, learning or other qualities of the sitter. Portraits have almost always been flattering, and painters who refused to flatter tended to find their work rejected.

Among leading modern artists, portrait painting to order has become increasingly rare. Instead artists paint their friends and lovers in whatever way they pleased. At the same time, photography became the most important medium of traditional portraiture, making what was formerly an expensive luxury product affordable for almost everyone. 

This exhibition of clothed portraits draws from the collections of the Laing Art Gallery and Hatton Gallery.

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: Portrait of Mrs Leathart and Her Three Children (1863–1865) by Arthur Hughes