Jack_Smith_1_3237017b Portrait of C.M. Composer by Jack Smith, 1987 Private Collection
Photo: The Estate of Jack Smith. Courtesy of Flowers Gallery

The exhibition has been organised in collaboration with Flowers Gallery and features abstract portraits of composers Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Colin Matthews . The portraits were painted after Smith was commissioned to design both set and costumes for the Ballet Rambert's Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum. Music for this production was composed by Birtwistle in 1986 and the Royal Ballet's Pursuit by Matthews in 1987. Ashley Page, whose portrait will be part of the show, choreographed both of these.

Smith once explained his use of abstract lines and bold colours to capture the spirits of the composers.

''Their music is who they are, really... So I had to find forms and language that would tell me something about their music'.

Birtwistle's portrait is a 'diagram' of the 'experience or sensation' his music created.

Portrait of a Composer I by Jack Smith, 1987 Private Collection Photo: The Estate of Jack Smith. Courtesy of Flowers Gallery Portrait of a Composer I by Jack Smith, 1987 Private Collection
Photo: The Estate of Jack Smith. Courtesy of Flowers Gallery

The exhibition is part of a series of Interventions, a programme which focuses on 20th century works with alternative approaches to portraiture by important artists. Others which have been part of the programme since 2006 are Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol. Smith is celebrated for his entirely non-figurative work.

Curator of 2oth Century Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, Paul Moorhouse commented:

'This display of Jack Smith's abstract portraits is a first for the National Portrait Gallery as Smith's paintings dispense with human appearance entirely. These paintings take the Gallery's Interventions series one step further, not only presenting an unconventional approach to portraiture but, in this case, raising a provocative question: is a person's appearance a necessary constituent of portraiture or are there are other ways of evoking a human presence?'

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