Durban Art Gallery masterpiece features in spectacular exhibition in London

Director of the Durban Art Gallery, Dr Mduduzi Xakaza. Picture: Peter Upfold

ONE of the Durban Art Gallery’s most prized paintings has been included in a major exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Artist-writer Wyndham Lewis’s portrait of TS Eliot, who would later be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1948, was at the centre of a media rumpus in the UK after it was unanimously rejected by the Summer Exhibition Selection Committee in 1938.

The artwork is now widely recognized as one of the finest British portraits of the 20th century. The masterpiece was astutely acquired by the Durban gallery a few months into World War II, in December 1939.

An image of the portrait attached to a Durban Art Gallery document.
Picture: Peter Upfold/Durban Art Gallery

Of all the many artworks in The Great Spectacle: 250 Years of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which is being run concurrently with the 250th Summer Exhibition of the revamped Royal Academy of Arts until 19 August, the Eliot portrait is the only one to have been excluded from the annual Summer Exhibition.

Director of the Durban Art Gallery, Dr Mduduzi Xakaza, said it was “so heartening to know that it has now regained its significance not only in its country of origin but perhaps at a global level”.

He added: “The Durban Art Gallery is absolutely honoured to have been given this opportunity of having its important heritage asset showcased among pieces by great masters of the world. We, at the Durban Art Gallery, also feel honoured to share the piece with the citizens of the UK where the work was masterfully produced.”

Dr Sarah Victoria Turner, Deputy Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre and one of the exhibition co-curators, said: “As an art historian of British modernism, I was keen to tell the story of the Summer Exhibition’s sometimes difficult relationship with modern art and the fallout that could occur when an artwork was rejected from the Summer Exhibition.

“We are very grateful to the Durban Art Gallery that they have loaned this important work in their collection to us.”

For exhibition info, visit: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/the-great-spectacle

 

  • Do you, your family or friends have memories of the portrait on display, or know anyone with a connection to the Durban Art Gallery and portrait, in bygone years? Email [email protected]

 

 

 

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  AUTHOR
By Jaron Murphy

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