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Bringing history alive through portraiture by Art & Soul

October 17, 2021 1 Comment

Art & Soul blogging logo of Stella Tooth Artist

Back in August I had the pleasure of visiting Richmond Castle in Yorkshire. 

Richmond Castle is the best-preserved example of an early Norman castle in England. Construction likely started in the 1070s, it was expanded in the 12th, derelict by 1540 and, during the First World War, was used as a prison for conscientious objectors.

What fascinated me most was the way that English Heritage had brought the history of the castle to life through modern portraiture, and written biography, which complemented the portraiture of the time.

Richmond Castle display of portraits to bring history alive

From the period images we perhaps gained an idea of how the people really looked, what they wore, customs of the time... and moments of history.

Richmond Castle bringing history alive through portraiture

The modern portraiture, on the other hand, was used to bring social context, uniting research gleaned into what castle life was like for those who lived in it, from the Earl to the Usher. 

Richmond Castle portraiture bringing history alive

It's a common approach used in other museums around the world.  But one I think has appeal to young and old - the personalisation and bringing to life of history, allowing us to step into the shoes of others.

The old and new images were then united in the Earl's family tree - with photographs of recent descendants.  I liked the way that silhouettes were used to suggest a person for whom no visual information existed to suggest sex, age, and status.

Family tree display at Richmond Castle

The power of words and picture

In the Lots Road Group of portraitists that I co-founded from former students of The Heatherley School of Fine Art we use the power of words and picture to tell our subjects' stories.

In a series of exhibitions over the years we have explored, through words and picture, the following themes which you can browse in our online catalogues.  Each explains a different aspect of portraiture through telling the stories of our sitters and what it was like to sit for us:

(What it's like to portray an intimate)

Portrayed! IWF UK 25 year of inspiring women
(What it's like to portray a high profile person previously unknown to you)

The Art of Reading
(Why would you have a portrait on your wall of a non celebrity unknown to you?)

(In a country divided by Brexit, the power of portraiture to connect us all)

Beyond the door
(Capturing in the zeitgeist: portraiture created and reflecting our experience of the pandemic)

Skylark Galleries commissionable portrait artists

At Skylark Galleries we have both commissionable portrait artists like myself, Jo HogdenZsuzsanna Pataki, Vivien Phelan (ceramics), Claire Thorogood.

As well as adult and child portraits a number of us undertake pet portraits such as Helen Trevisiol, myself, Claire and Vivien.

In addition many Skylark Galleries artists work features the human face. As I am trained in working from real people I hugely admire those who marry their imagination with portraiture.  Heather Tobias, for instance, who trained both as an actor and artist creates characters who might appear historical in their reference but are in essence of our time. She chooses to work with porcelain and oxides.

The Lady of the Manor porcelain by Heather Tobias

The Lady of the Manor by Heather Tobias £185

Linda Samson's work is bold and colourful, predominantly figurative, often imbued with the landscape of her childhood, spent on the east coast of Scotland. The sea, sky, birds, the sun, the moon rising over the water are all motifs that often recur in her work.

Sea glass 2 by Linda Samson artist

Sea Glass 2 by Linda Samson £800

Sangeeta Bhagawati is a London based printmaker from India who makes linoprints with chinecollé, mono prints and etchings, inspired by her experience of growing up as a woman in a South Asian culture.  Women are the prime subjects of her prints which channel the feelings of rebellion, strength and communion on woman and body.

Companion by Sangeeta Bhagawati artist

Companion by Sangeeta Bhagawati

I specialise in portraits and performer art. I appreciate in the tribute bands I portray at the legendary music venue the Half Moon Putney both the musicianship they demonstrate in recreating the sounds of their chart-topping heroes, and the acting ability they need to evoke their look. My paintings seek to convey the spirt of the acts they admire. Here it's Mary Watson of Cloudbusting's gesture which, for me, brings back the visual memory of the first time I heard groundbreaking Wuthering Heights.  

Cloudbusting tribute band to Kate Bush oil on cradled gesso panel by Stella Tooth artistCloudbusting Kate Bush tribute band at the Half Moon Putney £310 by Stella Tooth

Cloudbusting and my new work is created sized 12" x 12" - like an old album cover - so you can collect your own playlist of musicians to hang in clusters in your man cave, your kitchen or your studio, wherever you enjoy listening to music.

Art & Soul blogger biography of Stella Tooth artist

1 Response


October 18, 2021

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this fascinating and beautifully written article. Thank you for sharing.

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