Skip to main content

Dempsey’s people

A folio of British street portraits 1824–1844

Thursday 29 June until Sunday 22 October 2017

This will be the first exhibition to showcase the compelling watercolour images of English street people made by the itinerant English painter John Dempsey throughout the first half of the nineteenth century.

Billy the match man, Liverpool, 1844 by John Dempsey
600
87682
10009
Billy the match man, Liverpool, 1844 by John Dempsey

Featuring 52 rarely-seen portraits, the exhibition will profile the stories of town-criers, match-sellers, chimney-sweeps, street-food vendors, and numerous other characters populating the urban landscape of Regency-era and early Victorian Britain. Remarkable in their incisive realism and providing rare visual documentation of people otherwise overlooked by history, Dempsey’s portraits bring to life the fictional worlds of writers like Charles Dickens, presenting a vivid and distinctive survey of street people in British cities and towns. Similarly, the life and work of John Dempsey stands as representative of a substantial but uncelebrated layer of pictorial production in this era, a pre-photographic cultural infrastructure of journeyman oil painters, watercolourists, miniaturists, popular portraitists and cutters and painters of shades.

Curated by guest curator Dr David Hansen, Associate Professor with the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at the ANU, Dempsey’s people will be accompanied by a full-colour, scholarly publication and promises to be an exciting feature of the National Portrait Gallery's 2017 exhibition program.

Bookings available

$10, $8 concessions, $5 members