web site hit counter The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits

Availability: Ready to download

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 stunn 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 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.


Compare

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 stunn 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 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.

30 review for The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    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. 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    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 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 reproductions from the British National Portrait Gallery. The illustrations are wonderful, and there are many of them--the book as a whole is expensively and lavishly produced on heavy coated paper, which makes looking at the images a joy (while also making the book very heavy to hold!)--but so many more paintings are referenced in the text that I continually found myself frustrated at not being able to see portraits so lovingly described. (That feels ungrateful, but it's true nonetheless.) I am a long-time fan of Simon Schama's television hosting as well as his writing, and this book is far more like the former than the latter. I haven't seen the television series it companions (yet; I believe and hope it will be shown on PBS eventually), but I wouldn't be the tiniest bit surprised if this was a fleshed out version of the show transcript because Schama's speaking voice comes through loud and clear on every page--I could almost see and hear him as I read. That is a strength of the book, but it is also a bit of a weakness, because it makes the book feel very episodic, especially at first, when I was expecting more of a connected narrative than the book delivers. Still, I recommend it, especially to people interested in art history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tracett

    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. 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Luc De Coster

    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 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 time. What role did this portrait play in history or how does it represent the issues at stake in the time of its creation? Thirdly, there always is an anecdote about the painter, the sitter or the portrait itself. Churchill looks fierce, not because he is determined to beat Hitler but because an audacious photographer brutally took his cigar away. Most of the time he does the three things together which results in a most enjoyable read. In about five thematic chapters (power, love, fame, self-portrait, (common) people) Schama discusses a wide range of portraits, hopping from one era to another explaining how portraits and the represented theme have evolved philosophically and visually over time. Be prepared to face an avalanche of names and historical references that may at times hinder the fluency of the reading unless your erudition equals that of Schama. Have a google device nearby. But see it through and you will be rewarded with more or renewed insights into British history and in art history. As a bonus you will have amply expanded your stock of interesting facts and amusing stories and hence your range in conversation. The hardcover is a beautiful book with quality pictures of most of the portraits discussed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Engle

    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 ...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    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 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. There's a great deal of potential in this work. It's a fascinating topic and Schama has the art historical background to pull it off. But only a few sections really gel as a cohesive whole; the first chapter on power, the last chapter on ordinary Britons, some of the asides on caricature and miniature paintings which were carried as a constant reminder of a beloved one. Basically, for an American, what this book needed was more structure and context on about 200 years of British history from 1750 to 1950. I consider myself reasonably well-read and an amateur historian, but I only know enough to sketch an outline of this period, and Schama is so caught up in breathy gossip that I lost track of what he was gossiping about. What could be insightful tends towards a ramble through the British Gallery. This book probably also suffered because of my tendency to marathon through whatever I'm reading. At a chapter a day, the tone might grate less. Still, lots of beautiful plates and fun words, even if the choice of images in a chapter can be somewhat frustrating.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Maarten Mathijssen

    Simon Schama deals with the history of British art through his painters and especially the portrait painters. He does this in a fascinating, detailed and very anecdotal way. What is striking is that British painting was less prominent internationally. Perhaps with the exception of the second half of the last century (Freud, Bacon, Hockney), British painting faded somewhat with that of the continent. When he treats William Hogarth as one of the first to capture everyday street life in the UK in t Simon Schama deals with the history of British art through his painters and especially the portrait painters. He does this in a fascinating, detailed and very anecdotal way. What is striking is that British painting was less prominent internationally. Perhaps with the exception of the second half of the last century (Freud, Bacon, Hockney), British painting faded somewhat with that of the continent. When he treats William Hogarth as one of the first to capture everyday street life in the UK in the 18th century, he says almost casually but tellingly: The Dutch did this 100 years ago. But Schama tells it all so lovingly and interestedly that it becomes a very fascinating experience. The story of the portrait of Winston Churchill by Graham Sutherland is beautiful. Despite the many illustrations, I kept the laptop with me and looked up the paintings discussed, perhaps cumbersome but certainly enlightening. Great book

  9. 4 out of 5

    Agatha Runcible

    Read the bits about artists I like but incredible writing

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    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 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 embroidered eyes and ears, symbolizing the all knowing nature of the monarch. A bit bizarre to our modern sensibilities, but in light of recent events, maybe due for a comeback.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jordan McKay

    *4.5 This 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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

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

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dinesh Krithivasan

    This should have been a television series (maybe it is) or a much much better produced book. Here is the problem - every chapter deals with a loose central theme (women painters, war painters, caricaturists or famous English painters like Gainsborough, Millais, Freud etc.) but the chapters spiral out unpredictably in many different directions from that core. The prose is heavy and florid, the chronology is hard to understand and we never know if the person we are currently reading about is just This should have been a television series (maybe it is) or a much much better produced book. Here is the problem - every chapter deals with a loose central theme (women painters, war painters, caricaturists or famous English painters like Gainsborough, Millais, Freud etc.) but the chapters spiral out unpredictably in many different directions from that core. The prose is heavy and florid, the chronology is hard to understand and we never know if the person we are currently reading about is just a bit player who will be forgotten by the next paragraph or somehow integral to the entire chapter. Add to this mess the fact that many paintings are referenced in the text but not shown for the next several pages (with no hyperlinking either which is just criminal. If only publishers would use the potential of the "e" in the e-books) and even worse, many more are not shown at all (possibly because of copyright issues?). This format might have worked with the visual medium where Schama's voiceover accompanies the camera panning over the work of art being described but as a book, it is just a confusing morass. I was hopelessly lost for most of the book and could only follow those chapters where I already knew some background (Millais' Ophelia for example). It is a book on my favourite subject by one of my favourite thinkers - despite all its flaws, I can't bring myself to give it anything less than 3 stars. But pick it up at your own peril.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    Schama’s writing style is intriguing / quirky and although it can cause the reader to have to re-read a sentence or two, it was not a burden. Working in cooperation with the National Portrait Gallery, Schama selected a variety of items to write about be they silhouettes, paintings, photographs or photographs of 3-D art. Many essays were interesting (maybe the most so was the section on the famous photograph of Winston Churchill deprived of his cigar that Yousef Karsh took---this reviewer did thi Schama’s writing style is intriguing / quirky and although it can cause the reader to have to re-read a sentence or two, it was not a burden. Working in cooperation with the National Portrait Gallery, Schama selected a variety of items to write about be they silhouettes, paintings, photographs or photographs of 3-D art. Many essays were interesting (maybe the most so was the section on the famous photograph of Winston Churchill deprived of his cigar that Yousef Karsh took---this reviewer did think that there was a story about such a picture of Churchill striding down the street and a photographer pulled the cigar out of his mouth which left a very glowering Winston in the frame) and allowed such that the reader could pick and choose which to read more carefully than others. Several essays mentioned art works that were not reproduced in the book and generated enough interest for further research such as Joshua Reynolds work with the African slaves. Many of those researched came up on the NPG website. Overall, an interesting mix of history and art---with selections not typical of texts covering this type of pairing. Some readers may not enjoy it if they anticipated more famous subjects and artists.

  15. 4 out of 5

    William Korn

    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 to wh 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 to whimsical to deadly serious – never talking down to the reader but very accessible nonetheless. I understand more stiff-necked historians consider his approach too “popular”, but then Schama gets read outside the Academy and they don’t. The only thing I regret about this book is it didn’t contain a lot of the portraits and other works of art of which he spoke. But that’s what the Internet is for. With my copy of this book at my side, I will find those works of art to make my appreciation of his analysqis of them even better.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    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 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 all. He pretty much didn't discuss anything before 1600, so he didn't mine the rich vein of portraits of Elizabeth I except in passing. I was also surprised he didn't talk about Vanessa Bell, whose self-portraits spanned her lifetime and were beautiful and interesting. But there was a whole LOT he did talk about and it was a nice break to read something that wasn't going to make me mad or sad.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Nekolny

    You really can't do better than reading Simon Schama discussing the history of Britain while simultaneously providing a lecture on art. It really is a master combining his two passions into one project. The idea here is to produce a history of Britain from roughly the Elizabethan era to now using the portraits in the National Portrait Gallery as reference points. But not only do you get the usual discussions of kings and queens and Cromwell but also fascinating pieces on the edges of life: injur You really can't do better than reading Simon Schama discussing the history of Britain while simultaneously providing a lecture on art. It really is a master combining his two passions into one project. The idea here is to produce a history of Britain from roughly the Elizabethan era to now using the portraits in the National Portrait Gallery as reference points. But not only do you get the usual discussions of kings and queens and Cromwell but also fascinating pieces on the edges of life: injured soldiers returning from war, Lewis Carroll and Alice Lindell, and when does a photograph change from a depiction of reality into the realm of art. A fascinating way to look at both art and history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gerard

    Simon Schama writes about British history using Art - in this case portraits - and about British art using history. Although many different periods from British (art)history are dealt with in five chapters, each concerned with one particular aspect such as Power, Love, Fame, etc, Schama never loses his central narrative line, so that this book never becomes a jumble of names and factoids. Add to that his wonderful writing style, and the beautiful reproductios scattered throughout the book (altho Simon Schama writes about British history using Art - in this case portraits - and about British art using history. Although many different periods from British (art)history are dealt with in five chapters, each concerned with one particular aspect such as Power, Love, Fame, etc, Schama never loses his central narrative line, so that this book never becomes a jumble of names and factoids. Add to that his wonderful writing style, and the beautiful reproductios scattered throughout the book (although having a decent google device at hand will certainly pay off) and you will understand that this has been by far the best book I have read so far this year. Of course, the downside of all this is that I'll have to read all his other books as well. Dang!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sharen

    Simon Schama's erudition could be intimidating. His vast and particular knowledge of British history and the history of art is more than impressive. And yet, and yet...he is charming, witty and immensely entertaining as a guide to portraiture from the National Portrait Gallery to collectables such as the cigarette cards of the 1940s-50s "the people's portrait gallery" as he whimsically dubs them. This is a delightful read - like visiting the treasures of the British Museum with a dear friend, wh Simon Schama's erudition could be intimidating. His vast and particular knowledge of British history and the history of art is more than impressive. And yet, and yet...he is charming, witty and immensely entertaining as a guide to portraiture from the National Portrait Gallery to collectables such as the cigarette cards of the 1940s-50s "the people's portrait gallery" as he whimsically dubs them. This is a delightful read - like visiting the treasures of the British Museum with a dear friend, who is an award-winning professor and also knows how to make you laugh. Highly recommended!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rob Pedersen

    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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    JD Robertson

    An immensely entertaining tour through half a century of British history through the window of the images people captured of themselves. If you like history or art or just good stories, give this a read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kaylynn

    DNF. I loved the first part of this book, but as it went along, I felt it lost cohesion. Early on, it is mostly going in chronological order, but because the sections were grouped by subject, as it began to focus on more modern paintings it became more scattered.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

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

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    What a scholar! What a writer! Just marvelous!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gert-jan Odijk

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

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

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

  28. 4 out of 5

    R C

    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)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emg

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

  30. 4 out of 5

    Richard Anderson

    Fascinating and erudite, as always with Schama.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.