The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum takes a look at the various interpretations of Robert Burns' appearance - from his lifetime to the present
Most of us think we know what Robert Burns looked like, primarily thanks to the famous Alexander Nasmyth portrait of 1787 which depicted The Bard in all of his youthful splendour. But is this a faithful rendering of the poet? Or is it a fiction, like the derivative and romantic Archibald Skirving portrait - drawn well after Burns died?
© With kind permission of Rob Wilson
Perhaps less well known is the fact that Burns himself believed it was a miniature - painted just a few month before he died by Alexander Reid, an unknown local artist, that offered the best likeness.
The Reid miniature is one of several interpretations of Scotland’s most famous poet going on display at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, who have invited a range of contemporary artists to offer their take on his appearance.
Contributing artists include Graham Fagen, who has been chosen to represent Scotland in next year’s Venice Biennale together with two of this year’s Scottish Art School graduates: Rosie Dahlstrom and Shannon Laing; each of them bringing their own idiosyncratic take on Burns.
© Courtesy Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Among the variety of media, which includes traditional oil paint and bronze, visitors will encounter bards fashioned from Lego and from mass produced plastic headed pins from China.
The one constant, regardless of medium or era, seems to to the sideburns, which remain fulsome and impressive throughout. What the author of A Man's a Man for A' That, Tam o' Shanter and Ae Fond Kiss would have made of it all, can only be imagined.
A life-sized model of Burns’ head, reconstructed by forensic scientists from the University of Dundee in 2013 using Burns’ skull as well as surviving portraits and a silhouette from his lifetime, join the contemporary creations to offer what Museum Director David Hopes describes as a “rare chance to reflect on the personality of Burns through portraiture”.
“Images of the Poet say as much about us as they do about Burns,” he adds. “The Real Face is therefore an opportunity to see Burns and to see ourselves - and our relationship with him - in entirely new ways.”
- ‘The Real Face of Burns?’ is at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum from Saturday February 21 until Sunday June 14 2015.
© The Little Artists
© Shannon Laing
© Rosie Dahlstrom
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© Adrian Wiszniewski
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