Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery’s latest exhibit Ralph Heimans: Portraiture. Power. Influence. offers more than just stunning portraits of famous people.

Ralph Heimans’ portrait of Dame Judi Dench, is one of many works on display at the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Ralph Heimans: Portraiture. Power. Influence.

It also provides a fascinating insight into the processes behind the work of Ralph Heimans,  an internationally sought-after portraitist.

The exhibition marks the first major Australian exhibition of the Sydney-born artist’s work and features some of the most significant portraits in his career to date.

HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark painted by Heimans in 2006.

It includes portraits of royals including King Charles, King Frederick of Denmark and his wife Queen Mary, icons of the artistic world including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ben Kingsley, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Margaret Atwood and Australians of `power and influence’ including Dame Quentin Bryce, Kevin Rudd and Michael Kirby.

Heimans’ most famous work, his 2012 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee is not on display.  However, a fascinating video explains how the portrait came about and the process behind its creation.

The exhibition includes many of the sketches Heimans undertakes before starting to paint including this compositional study of RH Crown Princess Mary.

Similarly, all other works displayed also include an explanation of the creative process in producing each of the portraits including many of his initial charcoal sketches.

This is especially educational given Heimans is renowned for his luminosity, symbolism, reflection, draughtsmanship and a bold approach to geometry and perspective. It’s not surprising to discover he studied fine arts and pure mathematics at the University of Sydney before undertaking extensive training in traditional European painting techniques.

Ralph Heimans portrait of musical great Vladimir Ashkenazy.

At the same time the exhibition also highlights Heimans’ belief that he’s a storyteller and as such explains the intimate relationships he builds with his subjects in order to represent them.

As we discover there is a story behind, and reason for, everything that appears in an Heimans portrait.

It’s this combination of learning about Heimans’ process as well as the portraits themselves, which are truly brilliant in terms of their size, detail and use of colour and light, which makes this exhibition an educational and visual delight.

Ralph Heimans Portraiture. Power. Influence. is showing at the National Portrait Gallery until May 27.  Visit the National Portrait Gallery website for more information and tickets.


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