Exhibition

Alison Watt | A Portrait Without Likeness

On now until Sun 9 Jan 2022

Open daily, 10am-5pm
Closed 25 and 26 December
Open at noon on 1 January

Admission free | Advance booking recommended

 

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About

“One of the country’s most celebrated artists” 
The Times

Alison Watt (born 1965) is widely regarded as one of the leading painters working in the UK today. This significant body of new work consists of paintings made in response to the practice of the celebrated eighteenth-century portrait artist Allan Ramsay (1713-84) and are on show for the first time.

Alison Watt | A Portrait Without Likeness explores the artist’s continuing fascination with Ramsay’s portraits. Watt, most known for her beautiful and intricate large-scale paintings of drapery and folds, has long been an admirer of Ramsay’s portraits of women, in particular the intensely personal images of his first and second wives, Anne Bayne (died 1743) and Margaret Lindsay of Evelick (1726-82). Both portraits reside in the Gallery's collection and will be shown alongside Watt’s new work.

The exhibition is the fruit of a long period of study of Ramsay paintings, in addition to the drawings and sketchbooks from his extensive archive held by National Galleries of Scotland. Watt has said, “Looking into an artist’s archive is to view the struggle that takes place to make a work of art. A painting is a visual record of the inside of the artist’s mind. A painting is something that takes place over time; it is not static. To look at a work of art is to engage with an idea, and that is not a one sided activity. It’s more of a conversation.”

A Portrait Without Likeness is accompanied by a publication featuring conversations between the artist and Julie Lawson, the Chief Curator of European, Scottish Art and Portraiture at National Galleries of Scotland, who has curated the exhibition, as well as an essay from art historian Dr Tom Normand and a new work of short fiction by Booker Prize-nominated novelist Andrew O’Hagan.

Normand writes: “The fascination with flowers is uncommon within Watt’s oeuvre, but she has recently been engaged with the works of Allan Ramsay held in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Most particularly she has reflected upon his painting The Artist’s Wife, Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, painted between 1758 and 1760. This is an exquisite and mysterious portrait. At one level a tender study of his second wife, some 13 years younger than the artist, at another a poignant essay on the enigma of human passion.”

The exhibition is supported by High Life Highland.

Event highlights

Find out more about Alison Watt

Event accessibility

Exhibition accessibility

  • Wheelchair access

Location

Gallery facilities

A full accessibility guide is available at www.accessibilityguides.org.

We provide a sensory map of the building to help visitors identify areas with changes in light, smells and noise. It locates seating areas and less crowded, quieter spaces. Printed copies are available from the front desk at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

  • Information desk
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair access
  • Wheelchairs available
  • Lockers (£1/£2)
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Buggy park
  • Seating throughout
  • Bike rack
  • Accessible toilets for gallery visitors
  • Toilets for gallery visitors

Getting here

Located in the city centre on Queen Street, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is easy to access.

  • Open daily, 10am-5pm<br> Closed 25 and 26 December<br> Open at noon on 1 January
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD

Related events

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Special event

Early Openings: Autism and sensory-friendly mornings (January)

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Sat 15 Jan & Sun 16 Jan
9 - 10am

Free

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