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Mystery Portrait Postcards and Pen Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
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Mini Portraits with Maximum Detail
mystery postcards and pen portraits, national portrait gallery
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I have never been a good drawer. After much practice, I have become somewhat skilled at copying cartoons, but the ability to paint a realistic looking person is beyond my capabilities. I very much admire (and envy) the people who have this talent.

What I find even more astounding are the artists who are able to do these portraits in miniature. Scaling down an image requires an impeccably steady hand, an eye for detail, and the utmost patience. That is why I am somewhat in awe of the upcoming exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. For two days only (12th & 13th February) they will display two unique collections created for a special fundraising night on the 11th February, called The Portrait Gala.

When the gallery invited a number of artists, sisters, and well known faces to take part in Mystery Portrait Postcards, they received over two hundred submissions. These A5 portraits are in mediums ranging from photography to collage and paintings to drawings. Contributors include Richard E. Grant, Grace Coddington, Sir Paul Smith, Maggi Hambling, Gok Wan, John Swannell, and Alex Katz, but their names are not attached to the work, so you have to guess who did what.

The original works are up for auction on the gala night, while prints of each postcard will be available for the public to buy after the exhibition.

The second exhibit required some of Britain's best-known authors
to create Pen Portraits. In other words, they were asked to write a handwritten note about a chosen portrait in the gallery, which is to be framed alongside a reproduction of the portrait in question. Participating authors include Marina Warner, Hilary Mantel, Joanna Trollope, Sir David Hare, Sir Michael Holroyd, and Dame Jacqueline Wilson.
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Why? Fun for art lovers
When: 12th & 13th Feb
Phone: 020 7306 0055
Where: National Portrait Gallery
Cost: Free - £10
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