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Nicholas Sinclair: Artist Portraits

[ Exhibition )

Black and white photograph of a woman with dair hair looking up to the top left of the photo. A large painting of a woman leaning her head against a ladder is in the background. The angle of the photograph makes it look like the two women are resting their heads together.

Nicholas Sinclair, Paula Rego London, 1999, 2000, Black and white selenium toned silver gelatin print on Agfa Classic paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Presented by the Artist 2012) Photograph © Nicholas Sinclair

Photographer Nicholas Sinclair has been capturing on film major figures in contemporary British art for more than 20 years.

The result is a compelling collection of portraits of artists photographed in their studios surrounded by their work and materials.

This exhibition examined a broad selection of artists, many of whom feature in the Gallery’s own collections such as Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Anthony Caro, Richard Hamilton, John Piper, Paula Rego, Gillian Ayres, and many more.

Nicholas Sinclair (b. 1954) took up portrait photography during the early 1980s having initially trained as a painter at Newcastle University. In 1985 he bought a Hasselblad camera, which he found was the ideal tool for making portraits.

He created his first pictures of British artists during the early 1990s when he was commissioned to make a series for an exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery looking at painters and sculptors who came to prominence in the 1960s. This exhibition features photographs of leading figures in contemporary British art captured by Sinclair over the following three decades. Many of his subjects are represented in the Gallery’s own collection such as Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton, John Piper and Paula Rego. Pictured in their studios and surrounded by their work and materials, these portraits provide fascinating insight into the psychology and creative methods of the artist.

Sinclair’s work is characterised by an intimate understanding of his subjects, sensitively conveyed through his careful choice of setting and pose. He has described a moment of connection when, “either consciously or unconsciously, the sitter reveals something about themselves that the viewer recognises and can relate to.”

The majority of Sinclair’s photographs have been printed in black and white, a debt that he owes to Hans Namuth’s portraits of the American painters of the 1940s and 50s such as Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. However the exhibition also includes rare colour works of Anthony Caro, Fiona Rae, Albert Irvin, John Hoyland and Gillian Wearing, displayed publicly here for the first time.

Born in London, Sinclair lives between Brighton and Berlin. His photographs are held in significant museum collections including the National Portrait Gallery and V&A in London, the Albertina in Vienna, the Guggenheim Foundation in Venice and Staatsgalerie, Stuttgard. In 2013 Sinclair was made a Haselblad Master in recognition of his contribution to the art of photography.

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on

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