Portraits Destroyed: Power, ego and history’s vandals

Portraits Destroyed: Power, ego and history’s vandals
Julie Cotter
Thames & Hudson

Art historian Dr Julie Cotter begins with the example of Winston Churchill, a man who ‘was his own muse, absorbed by his achievements… excelled in the pageant of life’ so when presented with an unflattering portrait, it would not do. Cotter’s subsequent vignettes in ‘Portraits Destroyed’ explore the weight of the genre, how it can deify and also send the ‘wrong’ message about a person. The importance of the portrait is shown to extend beyond likeness into a complex realm of historiography and power, vanity, race, ethics and the creative process itself; all of which are intriguing reasons to conserve a portrait and, at times, a compelling argument for it to meet its demise.