Bettina von Zwehl

Bettina von Zwehl has built an international reputation for her subtle, distinctive photographic portraits. As her practice has developed, she has continued to seek out different ways of exploring the form; from her early works, most often defined by the exacting conditions she imposed on her subjects, to her most recent projects which reprise the tradition of the painted portrait miniature. Her ongoing pre-occupation with the miniature was inspired during her residency at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The work that emerged during that time presented several significant departures for the artist, particularly in that her habitual use of flash made way for a new appreciation of north facing natural light. Her new methodology also reveals a deepening interest in the politics and the possibilities around the three-way dialogue between artist, sitter and viewer In Invitation to Frequent the Shadows (Freud Museum, London 2016), von Zwehl responded to the archive of Anna Freud with a delicate and in-depth exploration of grief, loss and friendship. Experimentation with chance manipulations of paper in the darkroom with her series The Sessions and The Followers arose out of an ongoing interest in historical silhouettes. Von Zwehl’s response to portraits of Elizabeth I, in the collection of the Queen’s House Greenwich, has resulted in portrait miniatures of young women from a local school recorded at a moment when they are making crucial decisions about their futures in the workplace or in higher education.

Bettina Von Zwehl (born in Munich 1971) lives and works in London, where she studied photography at the London College of Printing and the Royal College of Art. Her work is held in numerous collections, including Guggenheim Museum, New York; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; National Portrait Gallery, London; British Council Collection; Rubell Family Collection, Miami; Martin M. Margulies Collection, Miami and The Wonderful Fund Collection, London. She was Artist in Residence at the Victoria & Albert Museum (2011) and the Freud Museum (2014). Recent solo exhibitions include Museum of Childhood, London; Holburne Museum, Bath; Freud Museums, London and Vienna; National Maritime Museum, London and the New York Historical Society Museum, NYC. She was the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award in 2017 and in 2018 completed a major commission for the Royal Museum Greenwich, Queen’s House.

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