A new display at the National Portrait Gallery
focuses on family portraits by the distinguished German photographer, Thomas Struth. The three portraits on display, exploring human relationships, complement Struths recently commissioned royal portrait which features in the new exhibition, The Queen: Art and Image.
The three portraits on display are The Hirose Family, Hiroshima, 1987; The Bernstein Family, Mündersbach, 1990; and The Smith Family, Fife, 1989. Each group spans three generations with age being the significant aspect of the relationships between individuals. As with his usual practice in relation to portraits, Struths only rule in taking the family photographs was that each person should look into the camera. His interest in photographing families relates to his own early experience of family albums. The photographs contained in albums form a compendium of information about individuals and their place within a genetically connected group. Struths family photographs explore the idea of connectedness, a context in which a persons appearance, personality and psychology are formed. Characteristically, Struths sitters arrange themselves. The resulting images invite the viewer to contemplate the nature of the relationships depicted.
The display complements the new portrait photograph of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh which was commissioned by the Gallery to mark the forthcoming Diamond Jubilee. The portrait was unveiled as part of the touring exhibition The Queen: Art and Image which is on display until 21 October at the Gallery. This large-scale portrait shows The Queen and Prince Philip seated together in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle and was taken on 7 April 2011.
Born in 1954, Struth studied at Dusseldorf Academy (1973-80) where his teachers included the painter Gerhard Richter and the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. His engagement with photography dates from 1976. Working at first in black and white and subsequently in colour, Struths mature style is characterised by formal precision and an approach that is essentially straightforward, avoiding narrative or artificial effects. His principal motifs include buildings, street scenes, visitors to churches and museums, landscapes, nature studies and portraits. He recently had a major travelling retrospective in the USA travelled to venues including the Dallas Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 2011 the Whitechapel Gallery, London also held a major retrospective of his work as part of a European Tour www.thomasstruth32.com.
Thomas Struth is part of the Gallerys ongoing Interventions series of displays curated by Paul Moorhouse, which commenced in 2006 with Andy Warhol: 10 Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century. Drawing on significant works loaned to the Gallery, the series focuses on important 20th-century artists who have extended portraiture in innovative ways. To date, the Interventions series has included Bridget Riley: from Life, John Gibbons: Portraits, Frank Auerbach: Four Portraits of Catherine Lampert, Anthony Caro: Portraits; and Tony Bevan Self Portraits
Paul Moorhouse, 20th Century Curator of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: Thomas Struth is one of the worlds leading photographers. We are delighted to be devoting this display to his portraits of families, and at the same time to be showing his new portrait of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. This is a unique opportunity to view his work in terms of human relationships.