The writer Ruth Borchard (1910 - 2000) amassed one of the most significant collections of self-portraits by British artists. Setting herself a ceiling of 21 guineas for a picture irrespective of the artist's fame or reputation, she acquired 100 pictures including oil paintings, watercolours and pencil and ink drawings which provide a fascinating overview of British art during the twentieth century.
The writer Ruth Borchard (1910 - 2000) began her collection of artist's self-portraits in 1958, setting 21 guineas as the highest price she would pay for any work, irrespective of the artist's fame or reputation. By 1971 she had amassed a collection of 100 works, including oil paintings, watercolours, gouaches and pencil and ink drawings. The resulting collection traces the development of modern British art through Neo-Romanticism, the Euston Road School, the London Group and the Pop Art Movement.
The core of the exhibition will focus on the portraits collected by Borchard between the late 1950s and the mid 1960s. It was during this period that Borchard began both to seek out emerging artists at art school exhibitions and to approach more established artists, and the exhibition will range from artists practising in the 1930s and 1940s, including Ithell Colquhoun and Ann Redpath, to those who found prominence in the post-war era such as Euan Uglow, Peter Coker, Roger Hilton, Peter Phillips and David Tindle. The exhibition will also feature archival materials that include pieces of correspondence between Borchard and the artists.
The exhibition will be displayed in Pallant House Gallery's Grade I listed Queen Anne townhouse. This setting recalls the Collection's original presentation in Borchard's home in Reigate, Surrey and will also constitute the first time that the portraits have been seen publically in a domestic setting. The setting will also resonate with Pallant House Gallery's own Collection of Modern British Art, which has been developed through the acquisition of similar personal collections. Paintings from the Gallery collection by members of the Euston Road School, the London Group and the Pop Art movement such as David Bomberg, Peter Blake, William Coldstream and Victor Willing will be on display in the gallery during the exhibition.
The exhibition will explore themes of creativity and self-identity, and will represent a range of different approaches to depicting the human form. Many of the works offer a detailed likeness of the artist while others are only suggestive of physical features and attributes. In some cases the image has derived entirely from an artist's imagination, in others they have been painted from their reflection in a mirror, occasionally capturing the surroundings of their studio. The works demonstrate a variety of techniques and media. The exhibited works will range from oil paintings on canvas to works on paper created in pencil, ink, crayon, gouache and watercolour.
All of the themes raised by the exhibition will be explored in a programme of workshops for schools and community groups. A programme of talks and events about Ruth Borchard and the Collection will also be organised for the duration of the exhibition.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
About Ruth Borchard: Ruth Borchard was born in a fishing village near Hamburg and later studied at the University of Hamburg. In 1938 she and her husband came to England as refugees escaping Nazi anti-Semitism. On her fascination with the self-portrait Borchard once said, 'In literature, my taste ran to introspective books: diaries, autobiographies, letters... Then one day I was struck by the idea that introspection in painting meant self-portraits'.
Talk: The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History
Thursday 29 January 2015, 6pm, £9 (Friends £7.50, Students £8)
Author of a new history of self-portraiture James Hall explores the story of this popular and humane art form, considering the confessional self-portraits of Titian and Michelangelo, the role of biography for serial self-portraits such as Courbet and van Gogh, themes of sex and genius in works by Munch and Bonnard, and the latest developments in the genre in our globalised age. The talk is followed by a wine reception and a book signing supported by Thames & Hudson.
Exhibition Tour: British Self-Portraits: Highlights from the Ruth Borchard Collection
Thursday 22 January 2015, 6pm, £5.50 (£3 students)
Gallery guides Anne Hewat and Liz Walker explore the fascinating stories behind Ruth Borchard's collection of British self-portraits which features artists such as Michael Ayrton, Ithell Colquhoun, Jean Cooke, Peter Phillips and David Tindle.
Sunday Art Class: Ruth Borchard Collection: Self-Portraits
Sunday 23 November, 1-4pm, £17 (with Jenny King)
Explore the self-portrait process through drawing and painting. Starting in the exhibition space, study and draw directly from the collection and then use your preparatory work to create a final piece.
About Pallant House Gallery:
Pallant House Gallery is a unique combination of an historic Queen Anne townhouse and contemporary extension, housing one of the best collections of Modern British art in the country. Widely acclaimed for its innovative temporary exhibitions and exemplary Learning and Community Programme, the Gallery has won numerous awards since re-opening in 2006 including the Gulbenkian Prize (now The Art Fund Prize), the largest for arts and cultural organisations in the country.