Return to Life: a new look at the portrait bust

27 Sep 2000 – 7 Jan 2001

Exhibition in Galleries 1, 2 and 3

Rather than trace the history of the portrait bust, this exhibition looks at how an outer form might mask more intimate inflections, setting up a dialogue between a portrait bust and its viewer, and a conversation between one portrait bust and another.

Throughout the 19th century well-loved or well-respected people were 'immortalised' in portrait busts by a wide-range of sculptors. Despite the number of busts, and the range of their subjects and authors, there is a remarkable overall consistency in their form; a unity which over-rides their diversity.

This uniformity has tended to inform our response to the portrait bust, which has - and especially in comparison to its painted counterpart - been largely neglected in recent times. This exhibition addresses that apparent uniformity, challenging contemporary minds to understand how a formula might be not only liberating, but actually revealing of invention and skill.

The works on show span the period from the late 18th to the mid-20th centuries. They are drawn from the collections of Leeds Museums & Galleries, the National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. They represent well known sculptors such as Joseph Nollekens, Francis Leggatt Chantrey, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, and Jacob Epstein, alongside less familiar practitioners like Joseph Gott, Samuel Joseph and Kathleen Scott.

The portrait busts in Return to Life represent famous sitters alongside little known family members, and set old age alongside youth, vigour beside repose, the extrovert against the introspective. The selection was made by looking at all the busts in each of the three collections, and reflects the cumulative and shared experience of looking at the form in detail.

The exhibition curators - Penelope Curtis, Peter Funnell, Nicola Kalinsky - represent the three collaborating institutions. Return to Life follows on from Hounds in Leash and continues the Institute's current focus on sculpture's link between the representation of animate life and contemporary values.

Venue details

Venue address

Henry Moore Institute
The Headrow
United Kingdom
T: 0113 246 7467

Opening times

Galleries: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm

Research Library: Monday to Friday, 10am - 5pm
Archive of Sculptors' Papers: Tuesday to Friday, by prior appointment

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