Facing the collection is a timeline of portraits curated to complement Archie 100: A Century of the Archibald Prize and Robert Wilson: Moving portraits. It draws on new and past acquisitions to provide a glimpse into the shifting role of portraiture in art and society.
The art of depicting a person, whether painted, drawn, photographed or sculpted, represents an attempt to capture a likeness – one that may be physical, psychological or even spiritual. In the past, many portraits were made for memorialisation, to remember the dead – and historically speaking, some people were considered more memorable than others, with likenesses of the wealthy, white, powerful and privileged outnumbering those of their fellow humans.
Far from being encyclopaedic or historically exhaustive, this selection highlights works from the twentieth century and shows the challenges and opportunities posed to painted portraits with the invention of photography in the century prior.