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Sara Shamma: Bold Spirits (9 September 2023 - 25 February 2024)

In September 2023, Dulwich Picture Gallery will present Bold Spirits, a new body of work by the renowned artist Sara Shamma. For this display, Shamma responds to the Gallery’s historic collection with a focus on paintings of women. Shamma’s new works channel the spirits of these female figures while also connecting them to episodes from her own life, retelling their stories for contemporary viewers.

Each of Shamma’s paintings presents a powerful and thought-provoking interpretation of works by artists including Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Lely, Anthony van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens. Shamma explores identity, death, motherhood and unexpected beauty in works that demonstrate her technical expertise as an artist, as well as her long-standing appreciation of the Old Masters.

Shamma is interested in the creative possibilities of paint, and her works often contrast hyper-realistic detail with thick bands of richly-textured colour. Her practice explores themes of humanity and emotional connection, and images of her children, her family and self-portraits often feature in her work.

Shamma grew up in Syria and was introduced to the Old Masters through a print reproduction of a Rembrandt in her parents’ home. At the age of 14, she joined the Adham Ismail Fine Arts Institute before going on to study at Damascus University. At both institutions, she developed her technique by copying the Old Masters, creating works that she subsequently sold. Despite being exceptionally well versed in the Old Masters, Bold Spirits is the first time Shamma has directly responded to a collection of historic European paintings.

Bold Spirits is part of Unlocking Paintings, a series of displays that presents new perspectives on the Gallery’s collection, inviting contemporary artists and thinkers to reinterpret historic themes. The display is curated by Helen Hillyard, curator at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Notes to Editors

Caitlin Collinson
PR Manager

About Sara Shamma
Sara Shamma is a renowned painter whose works can be found in both public and private collections around the globe. Shamma was born in Damascus, Syria (1975) to a Syrian father and Lebanese mother. She graduated from the Painting Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Damascus in 1998. She moved to London in 2016 under the auspices of an Exceptional Talent Visa where she currently lives and works. Shamma’s practice focuses on death and humanity expressed mainly through self-portraits and children painted in a life-like and visceral way.

About Dulwich Picture Gallery
Dulwich Picture Gallery, founded in 1811, is the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery. It cares for and displays an outstanding collection of Old Master paintings within Sir John Soane’s pioneering architecture. As an independent gallery, which receives no regular public funding, it pursues its founders’ purpose of presenting art ‘for the inspection of the publick’ while engaging as many people as possible, of all ages and backgrounds, through a creative programme. Entering the gallery space visitors discover a surprising and contemplative experience that encourages the discovery of personal connections with historic works of art – a place to Find Yourself in Art.