Known/Unknown at Aberdeen Art Gallery

Tuesday 27 July 2010

A new exhibition of photographs by Aberdeenshire-born artist Sophie Ingleby opens at Aberdeen Art Gallery on Thursday [29 July].

The exhibition, Known/Unknown, features images exploring the relationship between painted portraits, their owners and the environments they share.

Sophie Ingleby uses selected works by the society painter Philip de László, to consider the nature of collecting and remembering, and how this is influenced by class and wealth.

Aberdeen Art Gallery's own Philip de László painting of Viscountess Dundein features in the selection of photographs and the original painting will be hung in the show.

Known/Unknown is an evolving body of work which Sophie is developing towards an MA in Photography. She was invited by Aberdeen Art Gallery to return to her roots to show a preview of the images to coincide with the display of de Laszlo's portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Her early love of portraits was inspired by her mother, who worked as a picture restorer in the North-east.
Sophie said: "When I was a young I was fascinated by the strangers that inhabited my mother's studio. I loved sneaking into the studio at night when their faces, peculiar clothes and poses came alive.

"I wondered who they were and where they had come from. This interest has continued into my work today, which is all about what a portrait tells you - if anything at all."

Philip de László (1869-1937) painted the celebrities of his day: the rich, famous and influential all over the western world. He became one of the UK's leading portrait painters, completing over 5,000 works. His paintings reflect the periods of great opulence experienced during the first part of the 20th century.

In contrast to these are the poignant images of the husbands and sons who fought in the Great War, painted in fleeting moments before the soldiers returned to the front - a custom which is being revived today by families who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The portraits can be found in public and private collections, with the majority owned by the sitters' descendants. Occasionally de László's work is available on the open market where his portraits of beautiful young women command the highest prices. This often results in pairs of portraits, a husband and a wife, being separated, sometimes across continents, with the women ending up in far more lavish surroundings than the men.

Known/Unknown will open at Aberdeen Art Gallery on 28 July and run until 4 December.