Collective exhibition. National museum of Fine arts (Building of Universal Art), San Rafael street between Monserrate and Zulueta, Old Havana. February-April 2018

The British were slow to show their faces.
David Piper (1)

At the time, the emergence of a National School of Painting in Great Britain within the European artistic context represented a different way of understanding the meaning of the work of art that transcended the borders of that nation in a relatively rapid process in time and in which the English way of painting portraits acquired a solid prestige.

In particular, the legacy of British painting in the genre of portraiture was very important in later decades, as the nineteenth century entered and reached beyond the limits of the empire. Artists from all over Europe recognized and accepted the English way of incorporating into their models the required dignity, elegance and refinement, but with the sobriety demanded by the nineteenth-century manners and social thought, far from the delicate and exquisite invoice of the previous century. The English portrait, from its definition within the period of formation of the National School of British Painting, offered to the artists of the contemporary generations and the following new formal and conceptual ways of conceiving the genre, propitiating this way a very significant qualitative jump in the history of the European art.

The eighteen works that make up this exhibition, belonging to the MNBA thesaurus, were selected with the intention of punctually showing the most important moments in the evolution of portraiture within the School of Painting in Great Britain, through the creations of some of the most representative artists of that school in the eighteenth century. Eleven of them are exhibited for the first time and for the occasion have been carefully restored, the rest comes from the Permanent Room of British Painting, which exhibits an excellent and larger set of portraits, among other genres. Thus, this temporary exhibition complements the aforementioned permanent exhibition with opportune details on certain characteristics of the genre in that European nation. The quality of this segment of the MNBA thesaurus allows us to socialize the knowledge of an important period in Art History, the one in which British portrait artists conceived to represent their models with a novel and transcendent pictorial interpretation.

by: Carlos Vicente Fernández


1 David Piper (1918-1990) is a recognized art historian. He was director of the National Portrait Gallery in London and other important British museums.