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Portraits in the Age of Revolution

Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution, 1760—1830 opens at the Royal Academy of Arts on February 3 and runs through April 20. Looking at Jacques-Louis David's painting of the death of the dreadful Marat and Ingres' painting of Napoleon, which were loaned for the exhibit by the Louvre and the Musee de l'Armee, I'm reminded how easily artists can make heroic icons of monsters. Beautifully executed, many of the paintings seem a bit hyperbolic. Joshua Reynolds' painting of Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse is no exception. However, the face of the figure of Terror to her right is supposed to be modeled after Reynolds' own, and his gaze has an uncanny intensity. The painting can be seen here (scroll down) and at the show.

The Academy promises a show far more expansive than I have suggested with artists from Europe, Britain, and America documenting people living during "The development of trade, the beginnings of Empire, rapid urbanisation and the growing force of the industrial revolution, brought on by scientific discoveries and invention. . ." This should be an opportunity to see portraits of British people during an extraordinary period, and perhaps catch a glimpse of their inner lives.

Admission is free to Academy members. Tickets can be obtained at the Academy's website or by calling (0)870 8488484.