Royals to Ratcatchers: 200 years of Power in the Southampton City Art Gallery Collection – Southampton City Art Gallery

Royals to Ratcatchers: 200 years of Power in the Southampton City Art Gallery Collection

22 January – 28 May 2022

Every portrait tells a story of power. Explore the relationships between the people on both sides of the canvas through a range of subjects rarely brought face to face.

How have artists presented sitters from different social strata? How have our views of artists’ subjects been shaped by their perspectives? Curated by undergraduate history students from the University of Southampton, Royals to Ratcatchers… is a unique exploration of the hierarchies underpinning self-presentation throughout two centuries of art history – from Joshua Reynolds’ gentry to Josef Herman’s miners.

Compare traditional portraits venerating elite sitters to those of celebrating the working class. Do they inspire similar feelings of respect towards their subjects? Conversely, by examining the use of abstraction and allegory, the exhibition asks whether power can exist when identity is lost.

Royals to Ratcatchers: 200 Years of Power in British Portraiture highlights the dynamics woven into the work of some of the country’s most important painters, inviting you to reflect on how these constructs endure within our society today.

Visit the Art UK website to read an article written by the students on curating the exhibition.


Anthony Green (b.1939), The Dinner Party (detail), 1966, oil on canvas. SOTAG 1967/8. © the artist, courtesy Chris Beetles Gallery

Josef Herman (1911-2000), Miners, c. 1950s, oil on canvas. SOTAG 2006/20. © Estate of Josef Herman. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2021.



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