The treasures of the National Portrait Gallery unveiled

“We’ve never had works of this age on the wall before,” she said. “It’s just one of those times when the portrait galleries of the world work together.

“This work is of global importance. It’s about British history, but they speak a lot about our whole history in many ways.

“I think there’s something for everyone here. There are a lot of familiar names and a lot of unknowns.

Ms Quinlan said one of the most intriguing works in the exhibition is Charles Buchel’s striking portrait of writer Radclyffe Hall, best known for his seminal, semi-autobiographical novel. The well of loneliness.

John Taylor’s portrait of William Shakespeare is featured in the Shakespeare to Winehouse exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. National Portrait Gallery, London

The book was banned by censors in Britain for over 20 years because of its depiction of a lesbian relationship. Hall’s cropped hair, masculine jacket, tie and monocle proclaim his defiance of convention.

“She was a pretty strong character,” Ms. Quinlan said. “The painting really captures that. It’s an androgynous style of dress, and if you look at the way her hands are painted, they’re absolutely gorgeous.

“There is something quite beautiful in this portrait, not in the way it is painted. It’s really from the era. »

Left: David Beckham, November 1998, by Lorenzo Agius. Right: Amy-Blue (Amy Winehouse), 2011, by Marlene Dumas. The National Portrait Gallery, London

Mrs. Gilmour said the Brontë painting was believed to have been lost forever, only to be rediscovered in a cupboard in 1914. The painting has not been restored and shows obvious damage from folding.

“You can tell their brother wasn’t necessarily a professional artist, but that’s not a bad thing for me,” she said.

“That’s what makes the portrait so special. You get a much more intimate sense of them, you get a much more honest and candid portrayal of them.

“It’s not them painted by an artist from the Royal Academy that makes them more beautiful, more glamorous than they were in real life. It’s them as their brother saw them.

Amy-Bluea portrait of Amy Winehouse by Marlene Dumas, shows an extreme close-up of the late singer painted from paparazzi snaps.

Contemporary figures such as David Beckham, Ed Sheeran, Anna Wintour and Vivienne Westwood are included in the exhibition.

Shakespeare at Winehouse is open until July 17.

Julia P. Cluff