Sir Joshua Reynolds (British, 1723-1792). David Garrick and Eva Maria Garrick, 1772-73. Oil on canvas, 55 1/4 x 66 3/4 in. National Portrait Gallery, London. Purchased, 1981. © National Portrait Gallery, London

NAPLES, FL.- Artis—Naples, The Baker Museum is the final U.S. stop on the tour for Love Stories from the National Portrait Gallery, London—a special exhibition of portraits focused on love and desire. On the road due to renovations at its permanent home, this collection of top tier artwork is rarely seen outside of the National Portrait Gallery, which houses the largest collection of portraits in the world.

Spotlighting relationships between noted pairs and couples in Western art from the Renaissance to the present day, this exhibition (February 4–May 7) features artists ranging from Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds to Man Ray and David Hockney, as well as other living artists and photographers. The storytelling through these works of art offers every type of love story, from the tragic love affair to forbidden love to celebrating the triumph of love against the odds.


Thomas Gainsborough (British, 1727-1788). Sarah Kirby (née Bull); (John) Joshua Kirby, c. 1751-52. Oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 25 1/8 in. National Portrait Gallery, London. Purchased, 1905. © National Portrait Gallery, London

This exhibition includes a dazzling range of artists, as well as styles,” says museum director and chief curator Courtney McNeil, “and it represents hundreds of years of masterpieces. I’m particularly excited about the Hockney work, but it’s so hard to pick just one to look forward to seeing. It’s such a treat to be able to offer it to our audiences, and we’re pleased that some of the subjects tie in so well with some of the other Artis—Naples’ programming, too.”

The idea of exploring different types of love is one that choreographer Martha Graham used in her ballet, Diversion of Angels, which examines a similar theme through the lens of dance and movement, rather than painting or photography. Miami City Ballet performs the work on February 28 as part of the Artis—Naples Dance series. Earlier this season, Artis—Naples’ Wang Chamber Music Series featured music by both Benjamin Britten and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, both of whom are depicted in portraits in The Baker Museum’s exhibition, which was called “delicious” in a review by the Boston Globe.


E.O. Hoppé (British, b. Germany, 1878-1972). Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, 1912. Vintage silver bromide print, 8 x 5 3/4 in. National Portrait Gallery, London. Given by Terence Pepper, 2010. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Two lectures dedicated to this special exhibition also take place during its time at Artis—Naples. On February 9, National Portrait Gallery head of collection displays and senior curator Lucy Peltz, Ph.D., who curated this exhibition, will introduce A Portrait of ‘Love Stories’ and tell some of the real-life stories behind the subjects of these portraits typically found across London’s National Portrait Gallery. The lecture traces love from the strict courtly traditions of the Renaissance, through its changing perceptions over time to today’s emphasis on love as a form of human expression and a key feature of fulfillment.

A second discussion takes place in March with Metropolitan Museum of Art associate curator Adam Eaker, Ph.D, titled Sittings, Seductions, and the English Portrait, which explores the written appeal of portrait sittings. He examines a range of English writers’ literary responses to the process of portrait sitting, such as those from Ben Jonson and Robert Browning. These texts, which include some of the great poems in the English language, help us to understand why portraits, and the process of creating them, have held such a central position in English culture.


George Frederic Watts (British, 1817-1904). Ellen Terry (‘Choosing’), 1864. Oil on strawboard mounted on Gatorfoam, 18 1/2 x 13 3/4 in. National Portrait Gallery, London. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1975. © National Portrait Gallery, London.


Kenneth Green (British, 1913-1976). Peter Pears; Benjamin Britten, 1943. Oil on canvas, 21 1/8 x 38 1/8 in. National Portrait Gallery, London. Given by Mrs. Mary Behrend, 1973. © National Portrait Gallery, London.


Sir Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641). Venetia, Lady Digby, c. 1633-34. Oil on canvas, 39 3/4 x 31 1/2 in. National Portrait Gallery, London. Purchased with help from the Pilgrim Trust, 1984. © National Portrait Gallery, London.


Humphrey Ocean (British, b. 1951). Linda McCartney; Paul McCartney, May 1976. Bromide fiber print, 7 3/4 x 11 1/2 in. National Portrait Gallery, London. Given by Humphrey Ocean (Humphrey Anthony Erdeswick Butler-Bowdon), 2006. © National Portrait Gallery, London.


David Hockney (British, b. 1937). Sir George William Langham Christie; (Patricia) Mary (née Nicholson), Lady Christie, 2002. Watercolor, 48 x 36 in. National Portrait Gallery, London. Commissioned and given by the artist, 2002. © David Hockney 2002.