Monday, 16 June 2008

Icons in Time

Yesterday, being a surprisingly dry and sunny Sunday I decided to pay a visit to the National Portrait Gallery in London's West End, attached to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Its been a while since I came here, and as all galleries have free entrance in the UK (except for special exhibitions) there's no reason not to visit one.

I came away summarising what I had encountered, about popular culture and the role of three icons, and what they mean to people, and how they are portrayed using art. All three are women, living in different eras in this century caught my attention.

Just by the entrance to the NPG, I came across this stone monument dedicated to Edith Cavell. Not knowing who she was I googled her name. She was a WW1 humanitarian and nurse, and was instrumental in helping many Allied soldiers escape from Nazi clutches in Belgium. She was subsequently captured and found guilty, executed by firing squad on 12 October 1915 by the Germans. Her death became an iconic symbol for the British Army recruitment programme, playing on her bravery. Her famous last quote,
''Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone''
is engraved on her monument.

The second was a photographic portrait of Audrey Hepburn, Hollywood actress, beauty and fashion icon. She received numerous awards during her acting career and later, became a
goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Children's Fund travelling to the impoverished countries of Africa. She died of cancer in Switzerland in 1993 at 63 years.

Audrey Hepburn, as a fashion icon, still lives on today (like Che!) and her image has been copied over and over by many of today's fashionistas and celebrities, and in posters and books.

The third icon that struck me was a series of portraits of Kate Moss, the infamous British 'supermodel'. Know for her sultry English looks she became Burberry's leading face despite the negative publicity which followed her purported 'drug use' secret video a few years ago. Her sharp features, even without make-up is her enduring asset.

Portrait photography, like no other 2-dimensional artform has an immediacy element. It gives the viewer a sense of reality, a freeze-frame, a slice in history, rendering all passage of time immaterial. It brings back the dead, and glorifies the living. That's my thought of the day...


MAX said...

Your blog is great !!! congratulations

svllee said...

Thank you Max for visiting! How is Switzerland? in the grip of football fever?!