Amsterdam, September 15 Over a hundred portraits, from paintings painted in the 16th century to poses captured by contemporary photographers, reflect love, passion and tragedy in real-life stories, an autumn exhibition that turns a new page for the Hermitage in Amsterdam after severing its historic ties with Russia on the war in Ukraine.
There are those from the world of music or cinema such as the “muse” Audrey Hepburn or Yoko Ono and John Lennon, royal couples such as Enrique and Megan, revolutionary personalities such as Oscar Wilde and even portraits of the future such as Harmony, a sex robot with a human appearance. But they are all a reflection of the central point of the exhibition: “Historias de Amor” (Love Stories).
Many of the works travel from the National Portrait Gallery in London, cross the United States and arrive in Amsterdam for their continental European premiere alongside a series of 16 portraits by Dutch artists and photographers from Saturday to January 8. The London gallery has the largest collection of portraits in the world and is under construction.
“This exhibition is a prelude to what people can expect from us in the future (…). This is the beginning of a new beginning,” Annabelle Birney, director of that art gallery, told Efe on Thursday, referring to its new stage after “cutting ties” with the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, its sister art gallery in Russia, which has given access for 30 years to one of the most famous art collections in the world.
Although he declined to say who he was negotiating with, Birney assured that the Dutch museum would work with other galleries in other countries to continue “building great designs, telling fantastic stories, connecting people through art and collaborating with international museums”.
“For a long time, the Hermitage in Amsterdam has remained aloof from the political events in (Vladimir) Putin’s Russia, as politics focuses on everyday reality and our orientation is in the treasures and artistic movements that span centuries.(…). Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine makes this estrangement no longer sustainable,” the museum said last March, in its rift with Moscow.
The show features masterpieces that represent ideas about love and together they paint “a moving picture of how love and desire have influenced portraiture from the late 16th century to the present day” and are essentially a series of real-life stories “about love in all its forms; from romantic love to the artist’s obsession with a muse, and from romantic tragedies and sorrows to love that triumphs against all odds,” the museum says.
The works were made by artists such as the Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck (1599 – 1641), the Swiss Angelica Kaufmann (1741 – 1807), the American photographer Lee Miller (1907 – 1977), the British artist Lucian Freud (1922 – 2011). ) and also the British designer David Hockney (1937).
While the couples who set the faces of this exhibition range from the legendary Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas; John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Prince Charles and Princess Diana; Victoria and David Beckham; Emma Hamilton and Admiral Lord Nelson; as well as Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, believes that Love Stories is an exhibition that “explores connected themes, from romantic love, obsession and infatuation to tragedy and loss” and emphasized that “At the heart of this exhibition is a series of real-life love stories that are universal and tell the story of the human experience.”
Love stories and tragedies that include Prince Charles’ relationship with Diana or Enrique and Meghan’s escape from the palace, but also the portrait of Harmony, the human robot who questions the idea of a couple.
Harmony “responds to human movement and touch with natural facial expressions, verbal and non-verbal communication. The owner enters into a social and, if desired, sexual relationship with the robot, which is similar to a (romantic) relationship between two people,” the museum says, jumping into what may be the future of another type of love.