FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2008
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Five Heads Equal Many More Tales
New Exhibit at Historical Society Explores Compelling Personal Stories Behind Portraits
Richmond, VA – The Virginia Historical Society (VHS) has more than 1,000 portraits in its collection dating back to the seventeenth century, but fewer than eight percent of those paintings are currently on display. In the new exhibition Heads and Tales, opening April 26, 2008, the VHS will showcase rarely or never before seen oil-on-canvas portraits featuring individuals with compelling personal stories.
"When we say 'compelling personal stories,' we mean: Teresa Blount (1688–1759), who inspired the English poet Alexander Pope; Daniel Parke II (c. 1669–1710), a royal governor who was murdered by a mob; Robert Barraud Taylor (1774–1834), a Federalist politician struggling against the tide in Jeffersonian Virginia; Thomas Fortune Ryan (1851–1928), a patron of the arts who made his fortune as a robber baron in the Gilded Age; and Elizabeth Dabney Langhorne Lewis (1851–1946), a Virginia suffragette, freethinker, and political radical," said James Kelly, Director of Museums at the VHS and co-curator of the exhibition. "It is surprising and rewarding to discover how full a story one portrait can tell."
The Heads and Tales exhibition focuses on ten paintings, of varying artistic quality, to be shown five at a time in 2008 and 2009. Each rotation includes paintings from the 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s. The stories accompanying each portrait are told through analysis of the components of the composition, such as props and clothing painted in the picture.
"Heads and Tales is as much about the reaction of the visitors as it is the tales about the sitters and artists," said William Rasmussen, Curator of Art at the VHS. "We want to know how the person looking at the artwork feels about the people depicted—do they like or dislike the painting? The sitter? The story? What one word best sums up their reaction to each picture? What does the viewer think of the changing fashions? What do the accessories in the portrait tell about the sitter? Answering these questions might make people who see the exhibition think about what a portrait of themselves would look like and symbolize if they had one painted."
The Virginia Historical Society is located at 428 N. Boulevard. The Story of Virginia, An American Experience, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition with more than a thousand objects covering all of Virginia history from prehistoric
times to the present is featured in the Robins Center for Virginia History. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am - 5pm
and Sunday 1pm - 5pm (Museum Galleries only). Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors 55+ ($2/Tuesdays–galleries
only), $3/children and students, free/members. Admission to the galleries is free on Sundays. For group tour
information, call (804) 342-9652. For more information, please call (804) 358-4901 or visit