Maggi Hambling's self portrait of 1978 was made, according to the artist, when her life was 'in a muddle'. Spiritually in love with one person but having an affair with another, the artist/subject sits centre frame surrounded by the swirl of forms - a teapot and a naked torso, a penguin and a puffer fish, a card trickster and a big tabby cat.
How do these things come together to describe a life? Maggi Hambling takes us on a tour of the picture and reflects on the nature of portraiture - from the great masters such as Rembrandt and Titian to her own celebrated work depicting her friend George Melly
Lucian Freud was intense and unwavering in his approach to portraiture. Here Martin Gayford, 'Man with a Blue Scarf', describes the experience of sitting for many hours for Freud over a period of 18 months.
In that time Gayford had ample opportunity to watch the artist in action - while he himself was being scrutinised in the finest detail, 'something between transcendental meditation and a visit to the barber's'.
Gayford explains how the portrait slowly came together, his reactions to the finished work and what he learned about Lucian Freud the man over their 'long dinner party for two' during its painting.
Paula Rego's portrait of Germaine Greer is one of the most popular in the National Portrait Gallery. Greer describes the friendship and respect that made the portrait possible. She wouldn't have sat for a portrait had it NOT been Paula, whose work Greer hugely admires.
Greer explains her misgivings about portraiture which she considers 'a minor art form at best...made by artists working in a self-limiting genre'. Worst of all are portraits of women - which are vapid or flattering or soulless.
What then was the key to the success of this portrait and how did it come about?
Akram Khan agreed to be the subject of a portrait for the National Portrait Gallery. But how is an artist chosen? And what are the difficulties of depicting a man who says 'there's no division between Akram Khan the dancer and Akram Khan the man'? A normal 'sitting' would make no sense.
So we follow Khan's story of capturing movement - how the traditional expressions of Kathak dance were interpreted by Fakhr in a contemporary way and made into a nine panel sepia portrait which captured the dancer in action.
The result is a portrait that is both deeply rooted in tradition and yet vivid describes Khan in various moods and attitudes.
|05 LAST||Robert Winston||20120511|
'I am hiding'. That's Robert Winston's observation about the portrait of him by Tom Wood which is in the National Portrait Gallery collection. 'I am like a person who is about to be found out'.
In this programme Winston - who is both a doctor, a scientist, an English professor, television presenter and a politician in the House of Lords - talks about the nature of portraiture and the purpose it serves.
He compares two images of himself - the painted version by Wood and a dramatic photographic image, also owned by the NPG, by Julia Fullerton - Batten. He reflects on the relationship between painting and photography in portraiture and the claims by both that they offer 'the truth'.