barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

The Modernist Face

Smith, Dobson & British Portraiture 1920-60

A snapshot through the lens of Modernism, this fascinating exhibition explores and juxtaposes the work of two under-appreciated British artists: sculptor Frank Dobson and painter Matthew Smith.

Discussing the dynamic relationshop between sitter and artist within the broader cultural context of the period, it features such celebrated contributors to British culture as author Roald Dahl, actress Jean Simmons, Bloomsbury elder statesman Sir Osbert Sitwell and textile designer Marian Dorn, whose patterns once adorned London tube carriage seats.

The portraits are complemented and contextualised by a selection of paintings, books and photographs from the University’s Cadbury Research Library and Research and Cultural Collections.

The fourth in a series of collaborations with the National Portrait Gallery – and co-curated by the postgraduate students from the University’s Art History, Film and Visual Studies department – The Modernist Face is the first loan exhibition to feature sculpture as a major component of its content.


Explore the Barber's stunning collections online

Learn more

New Acquisition – ‘St James the Great’

Unknown artist, 'St James the Great', about 1500

Learn more


Head of Prudence

Learn more

Unknown Italian Artist

Lion Mask

Learn more