The National Portrait Gallery is to showcase portraits of religious, political and military leaders painted by American artist Leon Golub in a new display it has been announced. 

Paintings of leaders such as Castro, Pinochet and Brezhnev will be shown in the UK for the first time and go on display to the public on Friday 18th March.

This new display will include four portraits of the Spanish general Francisco Franco at different stages of his life – including one of him ‘in casket’ following his death. In total the display will feature 18 portraits of 13 men, all in different positions of power.

Leon Golub Powerplay: The Political Portraits will particularly concentrate on the artist’s political portraits from the 1970’s, exploring the the evolution of the masquerade of power through the artist’s pictorial language.

The artist is best known for his large-scale paintings of mercenaries, interrogations, torture and riots, exploring the the effects of power upon the body through not only facial expression, but also gesture and dress, investing his dramatic scenes with psychological tension and depth.

Talking about these portraits in 1982, Leon Golub said: “I think of the political portraits as skins or rubber masks – realistic, but expressionless. They are empty, non-existent – lacking bone or sinew.”

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “We are pleased to be able to show for the first time in Britain the Political Portraits of the great American artist Leon Golub, a great addition to the Gallery’s Interventions series focusing on themes of representation in twentieth-century portraiture.”

Leon Golub Powerplay: The Political Portraits is on display at the National Portrait Gallery from the 18th March until the 25th September. 

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