LONDON.- The National Portrait Gallery
, London, has acquired a portrait of Amy Winehouse, it was announced today Monday 26 November 2012.
The painting, which was made shortly after the singers death in July 2011, was bought by the Gallery, with support from the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art. It goes on display at the Gallery today.
Painted by the internationally-renowned artist Marlene Dumas, AmyBlue is a close-cropped oil-on-canvas head study, scarcely larger than a sheet of A4 paper. Using a striking palette of mainly blue and black with hints of pink and white, the artist has chosen to focus tightly on the singers head with her eyes looking downwards and her mouth slightly open.
The viewer is drawn to the singers distinctive eyes and eye-liner at the top of the jewel-like portrait, while the slight decline in the angle of her face offers a glimpse of her long black hair tumbling down her cheek. By simplifying the singers characteristic features in this way, Dumas has created an icon as well as a strong likeness.
The Amsterdam-based South African artist recalls being moved upon hearing of Winehouses death and afterwards searching through images of the singer on the internet. Like many of Dumass works, the portrait is commemorative, but it also presents a restoration of the subject in paint.
Dumas says that Winehouse was a great musician, likening the singers description of her being given a voice to the way the artist feels about her own ability to draw.
Dumass liquid handling of paint carries tremendous emotive power, says Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Detail bleeds into and out of her work, directing and dispersing the gaze of the viewer. The rich, translucent blues of this portrait allude to Amy Winehouses musical influences as much as to the melancholy details of her career.
Amy Winehouse (1983-2011) was born in North London and trained at the Sylvia Young Theatre School. Her exceptional voice brought her to the attention of the music industry and in 2002 she signed to the Island/Universal label. Her albums, including Frank (2003), Back to Black (2006) and the posthumously released Lioness (2011), are critically acclaimed: winning the singer five Grammys and a Brit award for best female artist.
Embracing the soulful and candid lyrics of female singers and groups of the 1960s such as Dinah Washington and The Ronettes, Winehouses impact in the previous decade was to introduce a new affection for genuine vocal talent in the music industry, facilitating the subsequent successes of singers such as Adele. Her distinctive voice and talent for song-writing made her enormously popular with audiences internationally. Her rebellious nature and tumultuous private life, in common with predecessors such as Billie Holiday, made her a subject of media fascination.
Since her death, her family has set up the Amy Winehouse Foundation, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds in her name to help disadvantaged young people, particularly those struggling with issues around drug and alcohol misuse.
Marlene Dumas who was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1953, studied Fine Art at the University of Cape Town and later at de Ateliers and the Institute of Psychology in the Netherlands. She lives and works in Amsterdam. Dumas exhibited widely in both group and solo shows in Europe throughout the 1980s but her work only became known to British audiences in the late 1980s and to American audiences in the early 1990s. Emerging in an art historical context where issues of race, sexuality and power were paramount, Dumass work frequently depicts the abject or disenfranchised; including religious figures, media personalities and children.
Marlene Dumas has described her work over the last 30 years as an account of our time through the representation of people. Working primarily from photographic sources, her subjects are often portrayed at close-crop. This device introduces an element of abstraction, replacing narrative concerns with larger socio-political ideas, for instance in works such as The White Disease (1985) and The Pilgrim (2006). The 1995 Venice Biennale and solo exhibitions at Tate (1996), Pompidou Centre (2001) and MoMA (2006) established Dumas as an artist of international importance.
The last UK exhibition of Marlene Dumass work was Forsaken at the Frith Street Gallery which explored themes of existential despair within both a religious and secular context.
While this is the first painted portrait of Amy Winehouse to be acquired by the Gallery, the singer is represented in its Photographs Collection in portraits by Mischa Richter and Venetia Dearden.
Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: The National Portrait Gallery is very pleased to acquire this important portrait of an influential singer and songwriter, and I am grateful for the help of the Frith Street Gallery and the Art Fund that has made it possible.
Stephen Deuchar, Director, the Art Fund, says: Marlene Dumas's richly evocative portrait of Amy Winehouse is an imaginative addition to the National Portrait Gallery's Collection and we are really pleased to have supported its acquisition.