The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits

  • Title: The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits
  • Author: Simon Schama
  • ISBN: 9780670922291
  • Page: 305
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The Face of Britain The Nation Through its Portraits A portrait opens a window into a person s life who they were and wanted to be who the artist saw and how everyone else looked on From the divine paintings of Elizabeth I to the iconic photograph of b
    A portrait opens a window into a person s life who they were and wanted to be, who the artist saw and how everyone else looked on.From the divine paintings of Elizabeth I to the iconic photograph of bulldog Churchill from Victorian portraits of dead children to Hockney s of his elderly parents from anonymous workers to the artists themselves, Simon Schama uses a stunnA portrait opens a window into a person s life who they were and wanted to be, who the artist saw and how everyone else looked on.From the divine paintings of Elizabeth I to the iconic photograph of bulldog Churchill from Victorian portraits of dead children to Hockney s of his elderly parents from anonymous workers to the artists themselves, Simon Schama uses a stunning and surprising array of images to tell the story of the British from the Tudors to the present day He will change the way we see Britain and each other.

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      Published :2019-06-07T20:49:36+00:00

    About Simon Schama


    1. Simon Schama was born in 1945 The son of a textile merchant with Lithuanian and Turkish grandparents, he spent his early years in Leigh on Sea in Essex When his parents moved to London he won a scholarship to Haberdashers Aske s School where his two great loves were English and History Forced to choose between the two he opted to read history at Christ s College, Cambridge Here he was taught by Sir John Plumb whose other students Linda Colley, Roy Porter and John Brewer are now central to British historical thought It was Plumb s influence which instilled in him the importance of narrative and written style in order to gain an audience for history outside academia One of the hallmarks of Schama s work is his flair for description he gets arcane matters to walk, in fact dance, off the page according to fellow historian Peter Hennessy However, his approach is contentious and invites criticism of subjectivity and populism from academic circles Schama remained at Christ s for 10 years after his degree, becoming a fellow and then director of Studies, before moving to Brasenose College Oxford While at Oxford he wrote Patriots and Liberators Revolution in the Netherlands 1780 1813 1977 , which won the Wolfson Literary Award, and Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel 1979 At Oxford he met his wife, Ginny Papaioannou a geneticist from California.Tired of the Oxford system he once described his experience as being like a gerbil on a treadmill and enticed by the freedom of US Academic life, he moved to America in 1980, becoming Professor of History at Harvard Here he wrote The Embarrassment of Riches An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age 1987 , Citizens A Chronicle of the French Revolution 1989 and Dead Certainties Unwarranted Speculations 1991 an a unusual linking of the death of General Wolfe at Quebec in 1759 and the murder of a doctor, George Parkman, by a Harvard Professor in 1849 Citizens, which was written at lightening speed 900 pages in only 18 months, won the 1990 NCR Book Award However, Schama s emphasis on the terror and violence of the revolution and his argument, that from its beginning it was a sacrament of blood , ensured it has never found a publisher in France He is now professor in history and art history at Columbia where he has written Landscape and Memory 1996 which received the W H Smith Literary Award and Rembrandt s Eyes 1999 The latter is a controversial reassessment of the artist which attempts to reinstate the notion of Rembrandt the genius, aiming to invoke the atmosphere as well as the historical context In Schama s view, as he tells David D Arcy in Art Newspaper There are some passages of sublime reinvention for which history has absolutely no answers it seems to me pointless and trivial to pretend that it does Simon Schama has also worked for the BBC on a 16 part series A History of Britain and has been an art critic and cultural essayist for The New Yorker and Talk magazine He lives in New York with his wife and their two children Chloe and Gabriel.


    762 Comments


    1. Beautiful diverse stories on history and art. Some are real 'who-do-you-think-you-are' stories. The last part, The faces of the people, was my favourite, but I enjoyed them all. Not made for a quick read, but for keeping at hand and re-reading favourite parts.

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    2. Aan de hand van portretten (gschilderd, getekend, etsen, foto's) vertelt Schama over de geschiedenis van Engeland. Geen bepaalde volgorde, meer thematisch. Maar steeds erg interessant. Het is niet allen de geschiedenis an sich, maar ook het verhaal van de kunstenaars en degenen,die geportretteerd worden. Typische Schama stijl met veel humor. De reproducties zijn mooi. Het is ook een boek om alleen plaatjes te kijken.

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    3. Kind of an armchair travel book for history and art buffs. The Face of Britain augments the background of the portraits from London's National Portrait Gallery in the way that only Simon Schama can: quirkily; detailed, and deeply interesting. You can read this the way you might walk through a gallery, browse until you find a portrait that captivates, then stop to read the background. Destined to be a book to sit by my armchair for quite awhile.

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    4. A book which accompanies a television series (and a gallery exhibition) and which uses paintings in the National Portrait Gallery and the stories behind them to tell the history of British painting often in the context of wider British social history.Although there are lots of the paintings reproduced, many referred to in the text are not and the book is very unstructured, both between and within sections and chapters.

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    5. I love books about art, and I love books about history, and I love books about art history, so I figured I could hardly go wrong with a book with this title. And indeed, it is charming, although probably better taken in small chunks--I had to gallop through it, since I was reading a library copy, and it's a LOT to digest at one go!I would say the subtitle is somewhat misleading: It's not "A" history, it's a collection of short histories, on various subjects, illustrated by a selection of reprodu [...]

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    6. Simon Schama can do three things with a portrait: first, he can explain what its pictorial qualities are and position it in the tradition of portrait painting and art history in general. What is new in the style or innovative in the technique? How is it an expression of the art schools of its time? Secondly, he can tell us about the historical function of the portrait and the historical context in which it was created. Portraits had a different function in the Elizabethan age than in Victoria's [...]

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    7. Delightfully eclectic romp through British portraiture bouncing back and forth through the centuries, engaging artists, photographers, etc and their subjects part history, part art critique, part social commentary well-illustrated, as one would expect

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    8. There's something powerful and elemental about portraiture; about meeting another person's gaze across time and space. Similarly, the process itself, the complex dance between the subject, the artist, their actual appearance, what they desire to appear, and the chance that the image captures something of their essence, is also fascinating and powerful. And when portraiture becomes systematized, as it does in the National Portrait Gallery, that adds all the complications of public notability.Ther [...]

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    9. Prolific author Simon Schama is at heart a storyteller. In this his latest book he uses selected portraits from the National Portrait Gallery in London to tell stories both about the men and women portrayed, some well known, others not, and the artists themselves, again some famous and some entirely new to me. Altogether it makes for entertaining reading and a different angle on British history and society. One of my favorites: the "rainbow portrait" of Queen Elizabeth wearing a gown with embroi [...]

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    10. Not much about the paintings themselves. No discernible reason for pictures chosen, or order of discussion. Disappointing.

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    11. This book is absolutely a keeper. For starters, the idea of describing the history of a nation through its art (and in particular, its portraiture), with the necessary corollary of describing its art through its history, is a wonderful one. There probably isn’t anyone on earth who could bring this off better than Simon Schama. He is a very engaging writer who has done his research extremely well, and presents what he’s learned in a variety of styles, from informative to humorous to exalted t [...]

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    12. Not so much a book about the British nation, as a wander through the art history of British portraiture (and into photography), organized thematically rather than chronologically. It was funny that he mentioned Kenneth Clark in the first chapter, because the chapters of this book struck me as like scripts for episodes in a TV series like "Civilisation," which was so big when I was a teenager. It was interesting and well written and I got to find out about lots of artists I knew little or not at [...]

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    13. *4.5This achieves a good balance of history and analysis of the visual aspect of art, and despite the fact that each section of the book focuses on a different theme of portraiture with individual chapters then tackling specific artists ranging from medieval to contemporary times, Schama manages to effectively morph these disparate artists into a cohesive portrait of Britain.

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    14. The book started out with strong recounting of historical portraits, but then the text seemed to drift from place to place, with no underlying narrative or direction guiding it along. Due to this, several chapters appeared fairly arbitrary. The book was excessively wordy at times.

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    15. Beautifully illustrated look at British portraiture, grouped by themed rather that eras. Included both well-known pieces like the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare and less familiar works by/of women and POCs.

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    16. Great book dissected into sections that is easy to understand, even for an amature. Great for people interested in the arts or British history (or both)

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    17. Prose very occasionally overblown but not distractingly so. Lively, informative

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    18. Great read! The paintings Schama describes come alive and he write with such richness.

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    19. Fascinating and erudite, as always with Schama.

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    20. A good book to sell in the National Portrait Gallery of London gift shop. Not as good without the context

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    21. What a scholar! What a writer! Just marvelous!

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    22. male dominated, top down history. Good writing but I wish he had been more inclusive of class and gender

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    23. Don't just borrow this book, buy it. It's a must for every library. The author covers a wide variety of topics and uncovers many interesting substories that relate to both art and history. It's well written and chatty, almost as if Schama is having an intimate fireside conversation with you alone. I loved reading this book and can't praise it highly enough.

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    24. The National Portrait Gallery is a London museum near Trafalgar Square, which is home to thousands of portraits, with only a percentage on display at any one time. It's a wonderful place to visit, and in addition to the permanent displays of works of art, there are frequent special programs on individuals or groups important in British history. Author Simon Schama, in his new book, "The Face of Britain: A History of the Nation Through Its Portraits", is a wonderful look at selected works of art [...]

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    25. A companion piece to a BBC documentary, this book looks at a variety of portraits and their makes and what they say about Britain. Covers everything from Churchill, who burned a portrait he disliked, to wounded soldiers; from Mrs. Pankhurst to 18th century courtesans; from the first black Othello to fish wives. Educational, amusing and a pleasure both to look at and to read.

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    26. This is a fascinating book. One can pick it up and read the chapters in any order and receive a personal history lesson from Schama that reads like a novel. So many great stories of families, war, love and the winners writing (or attempting to write) their historical legacy. Beautiful color plates and illustrations. A really good read!

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    27. Fascinating look at a selection of portraits in london's National Portrait Gallery. Schama examines the lives of the sitters and of the artists that portrayed them, frequently including illustrations from other collections. Focuses on many lesser-known works. Wonderful. Copiously illustrated.

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    28. Completely enjoyable, although I often knew I was missing things because I am not British. There is an assumption that the reader is familiar with British history in a much more comprehensive way than I am. Crib notes on the succession of the monarchy would have been helpful!

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    29. Not completely finished - had to go back to the library- but comprehensively browsed. There should be a category for that!

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    30. NYT's 100 Notable Books of 2016

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