Many of the most-beloved British works of art in the National Portrait Gallery do not hail from London. Like the artists that created them or the subjects they depict, these works grew out of life in a range of cities and towns across the country. With that in mind, the museum has made the unusual decision to send 50 artworks back home, so to speak. The initiative, calling “Coming Home,” will see 50 pieces travel to places with close ties to their subject.
“We are determined to ensure that more of the UK can see some of our world-class art collections,” said culture secretary Jeremy Wright a press event announcing the project, according to the Guardian. “Every corner of the UK has well-known faces who have played a significant role in our nation’s history. I am delighted that 50 of these famous figures will be returning home so that current generations can be inspired by their stories.”
Kicking off the initiative are six initial loans. Heading to the Margate Library in Kent is Death Mask, a 2002 bronze by Tracey Emin, who grew up there and now has a studio in the city. David Hockney’s Self-Portrait with Charlie is set to appear at Bradford’s Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, while a 16th-century portrait of Richard III will go on display at Leicester’s New Walk Museum and Art Gallery.
Meanwhile, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and Queen’s Regiment Museum in Dover gets Emma Wesley’s portrait of Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry, and the Museums Sheffield is being loaned a photo of Olympic heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill by Kate Peters. The last traveling portrait is Thomas Lawrence’s unfinished painting of William Wilberforce, a political leader who fought to end the slave trade, which will be on view in the member of parliament’s hometown of Hull for the first time, at Ferens Art Gallery.
Separate from the new initiative, the NPG has already loaned the only extant portrait of all three Brontë sisters to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, in honor of the 200th birthday of Emily Brontë.
“We hope that sending portraits ‘home’ in this way will foster a sense of pride and create a personal connection for local communities to a bigger national history… helping us to fulfill our aim of being truly a national gallery for everyone, in our role as the nation’s family album,” said NPG director Nicholas Cullinan.
See the first set of “Coming Home” loans below.
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