The Visiting Portraits Gallery at Beningbrough Hall

Two ladies looking up at a painting of 'The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain'

Come face to face with original works of art on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in London. The Visiting Portraits Gallery changes every year, bringing new parts of the National collection from London to Yorkshire.

From Beatrix to Beckham…….

2017 continues the successful collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery with a new exhibition of visiting portraits hand-picked by Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, especially for Beningbrough. 

The Director’s Choice is a unique collection of four diverse portraits, each taken from a different point in Beningbrough Hall’s 300 year history and whose style and individualism reflect the diversity of the individuals and the times in which they lived.  

The 2017 visiting collection showcases an exciting new ensemble cast of both sitters and artists who join Beningbrough’s wider collection of 18th Century portraits which are currently on permanent loan from the National Portrait Gallery. 

Age of enlightenment 

The current Beningbrough Hall was built in exciting times. The eighteenth century into which it was born was an age of social upheaval, political satire and geographical exploration, of steam, canals, factories and industrial revolution. Equally the eighteenth century represented an age of enlightenment and literature. 

Richard Samuel’s The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain bears testament to this. A celebration of Britain’s most revered artistic and intellectual women of the era. The portrait proves a fitting starting point to the collection, remarkable not least in its style and composition but also for symbolising these contemporary women in a classical style.

From literary greats to sporting champions

As times change so too does its politics and people, along with their tastes and style. Over a century later, this is reflected in Delmar Banner’s oil of renowned children’s writer and book illustrator Beatrix Potter, which in turn contrasts with the bold brush strokes of Barrie Cooke’s oil painting of former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. Both literary greats during whose lifetime experienced their own particular type of celebrity and public appreciation.


And so to the present day and a portrait of sporting legend David Beckham, perhaps one of the greatest celebrities of our time. Each portrait brings a uniquely different dimension to the collection with their individual stories as sitters and the artists’ interpretation of this; Nadav Kander’s intense piece seems a fitting finish to the collection.

Art at Beningbrough

The 2017 Director’s Choice is a special addition to Beningbrough’s already extensive art collection. 120 important 18th-century paintings can be found throughout the hall on permanent loan from the National Portrait Gallery. On a singular extended loan you can also take in works featuring John Bourchier and T.E. Lawrence and learn more about their stories in relation to Beningbrough and the social and political times they lived in. 

In addition to this, find out more about the role of the sitters’ and artists’ roles in creating portraits with the interactive galleries and even create your own 18th-century style portrait which you can then email home.