Original painting part of Heath's Portrait of Heroes collection
Medium: Multimedia and acrylic on canvas
Napoleon once said that ‘history is written by the winners’. He might also have added ‘And painted by the rich’.
Today we think of Napoleon as a short fat man with a bad comb-over, as this is how portraits painted after his death depict him. Portraits made while he was in power though showed a very different man – tall, athletic, handsome. Were these earlier pictures the vanity projects of an all-powerful leader? Or – as some historians have suggested - were the later portraits intentionally revisionist depictions seeded by the conquering British who wanted to portray him as absurd?
“Portrait of Heroes” was inspired by this question.
Classical art was a means for wealthy individuals to portray how they wanted to be seen. In their portraits skin is always perfect and clear, they are handsome, beautiful and strong, but the reality was most likely very different.
The subverted “Portrait of Heroes” pieces playfully suggest that maybe the classical portrait artists of the past were really the Photoshop and Instagram filters of their time.
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