Bob Dylan’s Drawings: Face Value at the National Portrait Gallery

Bob Dylan‘s songs have marked the teenage years of many people, deep lyrics matched with haunting music leaving an invisible, yet tangible mark in the psyche of the listener. Well, not for me. I had no idea who Bob Dylan was until a few years ago, and that was during a discussion with a Dylan super fan that turned into a bright shade of crimson when I asked him to tell me his most famous songs and then failed to identify even one of them (he also tried to sing them, without any success). I was recently watching an episode of the Mindy Project, and when she complained about the song list of the previous Christmas party (“There was no Rihanna on it, it was three hours of listening to…Jakob Dylan’s dad- Bob?”) I thought of how this line could have been written from yours truly.
Dylan however has been a hugely influential cultural icon, from the controversial guitar that marked his passage from folk to rock selling for $1Million to his depiction on screen by Cate Blanchett in ‘I’m Not There’, his songs, life stance and art has made an impact on a lot of souls around the globe.
So when I passed from the Bob Dylan: Value Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery I did a double take. I saw twelve faces, portraits of real, imaginary and a blend of the two; characters that are pieced together from his experiences, imagination, life and memory. This is the first time his art has been seen in a museum setting in the UK.
I walked around the room, observed the pastel on paper, the face on canvas, the person behind it. ‘I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies, I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes’.



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