Painted Faces

05 Dec 12 - 17 Nov 13

Back to by Marlene Dumas, courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London. Photo Alex DelfanneJohn Frederick Lewis, Hhareem Life, Constantinople 1857 (detail)

Back to by Marlene Dumas, courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London. Photo Alex Delfanne

Painted Faces is an exhibition inspired by the recent acquisition of a work by internationally acclaimed contemporary artist Marlene Dumas, showing the talented singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. This exhibition expands upon one of the main themes of Dumas’ work, the depiction of female beauty in art.

Combining the tradition of portraiture in art with the tradition of make-up in popular culture, all of the artworks on display are inspired by the impulse to capture beauty, both natural and altered. Collectively they present very different versions of an 'ideal' image. 

Famous for their elaborate and stylised application of make-up, the role of the courtesan defined a tradition in Japanese woodblock prints. Known as ‘bijinga’ or ‘beautiful women’, such prints show the special attention paid to the wearing of make-up and to adornment as described, and, sometimes defined in art. 

(Above: Kikugawa Eizan, Tsukioka of the Hyogoya from the series Five Holidays in the Pleasure Quarters, colour woodblock print.) 

Further interpretations of beauty are presented through historical works including the exquisite watercolour ‘Hhareem Life’ by John Frederick Lewis, and intricately painted Chinese export watercolours in the style of the Tingqua workshop, capturing the intensity of the face and figure in detail. All of the artworks on display are works on paper from Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums’ collections.

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I thought I'd post this one by an unknown artist from our collection for you today - The Fishwife, dating from the 1800s

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