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Schama, Simon
The face of Britain : a history of the nation through its portraits / Simon Schama.
New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2016]
Physical Description:
xxiv, 602 pages : illustrations (chiefly color), portraits ; 25 cm
Reference Library
N7598 .S33 2016 (LC)
Accessible in the Reference Library [Hours]
Note: Please contact the Reference Library to schedule an appointment [Email ycba.reference@yale.edu]

Includes bibliographical references (pages 562-580) and index.
Simon Schama's latest book fuses history and art to create a tour de force of narrative sweep and illuminating insight. Using images from works--paintings, photographs, lithographs, etchings, sketches--found in London's National Portrait Gallery, The Face of Britain weaves together an account of their composition, framed by their particular moment of creation, and in the process unveils a collective portrait of a nation and its history. "Portraits." Schama writes, "have always been made with an eye to posterity." Commissioned to paint Winston Churchill in 1954, Graham Sutherland struggled with how to capture the "savior" of Great Britain honestly and humanely. Schama calls the portrait, initially damned, the "most powerful image of a Great Briton ever executed." Annie Leibovitz's photograph of a nude John Lennon kissing Yoko Ono, taken five hours before his murder, bears "a weight of poignancy she could not possibly have anticipated." Hans Holbein's preparatory sketch for a portrait of Henry VIII depicts "an unstoppable engine of dynastic generation." Here are expressions from across the centuries of normalcy and heroism, beauty and disfigurement, aristocracy and deprivation, the familiar and the obscure--the faces of courtesans, warriors, workers, activists, playwrights, the high and mighty as well as pub-crawlers. Linking them is Schama's vibrant exploration of how their connective power emerges from the dynamic between subject and artist, work and viewer, time and place. Schama's compelling analysis and impassioned evocation of these works create an unforgettable verbal mosaic that at once reveals and transforms the images he places before us.--Adapted from dust jacket.
Subject Terms:
Great Britain -- Biography -- Portraits.
Great Britain.
Portraits, British.
Portraits, British.

  • Part I: The face of power. The face of Britain ; Saviours ; Reins of power ; Bigwigs ; Attack portraiture ; Family album ; Absent one cigar
  • Part II: The face of love. Shadow love ; Kenelm and Venetia ; George and Maria, Richard and Maria, Tom and Maria ; Molly and the Captain ; Alice in the after-time ; Capturing Janey ; Francis and George ; Julia
  • Part III: The face of fame. Trouble ; Dragon's breath ; The first National Portrait Gallery ; The star ; Lookers ; Halls of heroes ; Farewell to the famous
  • Part IV: The face in the mirror. ... but on reflection ; This is me ; The history painter ; 'To self. An unfinished sketch' 1731 ; Living anciently at twenty ; The bodies of women ; Modelling flesh
  • Part V: Faces of the people. Black, white and colour ; Variety ; Cutting edge ; Chummies ; The faceless of Britain
  • About face.