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.

5 June - 27 September 2015



Tuesday 9 June 2015, 1.15pm

Introduction to ‘The Modernist Face’

Chris Neophytou and Noelle Jackson, MA students and co-curators



Tuesday 30 June 2015, 1.15pm

The People Behind the Portraits in ‘The Modernist Face’: Roald Dahl, Jean Simmons and Others

Josephine Male and Rachael Hill, MA students and co-curators




Wednesday 17 June 2015, 1.10pm

An Introduction to Matthew Smith and Frank Dobson

Rosie Broadley, National Portrait Gallery


Wednesday 1 July 2015, 1.10pm

The Birmingham Group: Icons and Ideals

Brendan Flynn, Freelance Curator


Wednesday 8 July 2015, 1.10pm

The Sitwells: An Ornamental Modernism

Dr Deborah Longworth, Department of English Literature, University of Birmingham




Saturday 4 an 11 July 2015, 11am – 4pm

Figurative Painting and Creative Colour

With artist Adrian Clamp




Saturday 18 July 2015, 1.30 – 4pm

Body Language

With writer Jacqui Rowe