Capturing and preserving the likeness of friends and celebrities is a recurring preoccupation in film, as in painting and sculpture. 

Films showing in this section: 

14:07 Margaret Tait Portrait of Ga 1955
14:12 Margaret Tait Hugh MacDiarmid - A Portrait 1965
14:20 Peter Gidal Heads 1969 [silent]
14:54 Gilbert & George Portrait of the Artists as Young Men 1972
15:02 Gillian Wearing, Tracey Emin, Georgina Starr and Carl Freeman English Rose 1996

Margaret Tait Portrait of Ga 1955

4 minutes. Collection: Lux 

A Portrait of Ga was the first of many portraits made by the Orcadian artist Margaret Tait during her long life of filmmaking. A portrait of her mother, it was shot on a visit home from the Film School in Rome. It signals the beginning of her commitment to making simple films about real life and real people. 


Margaret Tait was born in 1918. She studied medicine at Edinburgh University, and film at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematographia, Rome, after War service in India. She practised medicine to sustain her filmmaking, before returning to Orkney in the mid-1970s. Some of her work was made as ‘newsreels’ for the local cinema in Kirkwall, and much of it documents the Orcadian landscape and way of life. She also published poems and short stories. She died in 1999. 

Margaret Tait Hugh MacDiarmid - A Portrait 1965

9 minutes. Collection: Lux 

The poet Hugh MacDiarmid was well-known for his championing of verse in Lallans, the dialect of the Scottish Lowlands. Margaret Tait shared his appreciation of the sound of language, and three of his poems give her informal portrait its structure. 


See above. 

Peter Gidal Heads 1969 [silent]

35 minutes. Collection: Lux 

Peter Gidal’s Heads was made not long after his arrival in London. Its structure reflects his admiration for Andy Warhol’s Screen Test film portraits of New York’s beau monde of the early 1960s. Heads ’ tight framing of the image contributes to ‘its clinical subjectivity’ in the artist’s words. It also marks the beginnings of Gidal’s celebrated austere style. The film is silent.

The Heads are: Charlie Watts, Bill West, Jane, John Blake, Linda Thorson, Marsha Hunt, Steve Dwoskin, Theolonius Monk, Peter Townshend, David Hockney, Marianne Faithfull, Carol Garney-Lawson, David Gale, Richard Hamilton, Dieter Meier, Rufus Collins, Leslie Smith, Anita Pallenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Francis Bacon, Adrian Munsey, Carolee Schneemann, Andrew Garney-Lawson, Jim Dine, Vivian, Prenai, Winston, Gregory Markopoulos, Rosie, Patrick Proctor, Francis Vaughan. 


Peter Gidal was born in 1946. He studied at Brandeis University Massachusetts, University of Munich, Germany, and at the Royal College of Art, London, where he later taught theory and practice. Also in the mid-1970s, he was cinema programmer at London Filmmakers’ Co-op, and simultaneously a passionate advocate for the art form in the pages of Time Out and elsewhere. He is author of Andy Warhol, Films and Painting Studio Vista 1971, Structural Film Anthology BFI 1978, Understanding Beckett Macmillan 1986, Materialist Film Routledge 1990. 

Gilbert & George Portrait of the Artists as Young Men 1972

8 minutes. Collection: Tate 

Most of Gilbert & George’s art is a form of self-portraiture, since they always feature in their own work. But this video reveals only the mask-like personas they have maintained since 1969, when they first presented themselves as ‘living sculpture’.


Gilbert [Proesche] was born in 1943 in the Italian Dolomites. He studied at Wolkenstein School of Art, Hallein School of Art, Munich Academy of Art and St Martins School of Art. George [Passmore] was born in 1942 and studied at Dartington Hall College of Art, Oxford School of Art and St Martins School of Art. After a brief burst of video-making inspired by (and shot by) German video artist/curator Gerry Schum, Gilbert & George only returned to film when invited by Philip Haas to collaborate on a feature length work, The World of Gilbert & George 1981.

Gillian Wearing, Tracey Emin, Georgina Starr and Carl Freeman English Rose 1996

6 minutes. Collection: Tate 

English Rose by three rising yBa (Young British Artists) stars, is a home-movie for the mid-1990s. It deliberately avoids poetic form and instead revels in the subversion of identity, an ironic view of the artworld and a general playfulness. 


Tracey Emin was born in 1963; Georgina Starr was born in 1968; Gillian Wearing was born in 1963.