Visitors invited to face facts at striking new exhibition


‘STRIKING Impressions’, opening on 14 February in the University of Aberdeen’s Sir Duncan Rice Library, looks at how faces have been interpreted and depicted in different ways through the centuries from anatomy, divination and caricature to sculpture, painting and masks.

You can see highlights from the University’s art, museum and rare book collections, exploring how we read faces, how people around the world have depicted animal faces, powerful faces and ideas of beauty, and how faces can be mocked and distorted through cartoons and caricatures.

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As well as artistic representations, ‘Striking Impressions’ looks at the psychology of how people respond to faces. Whose faces do we trust or distrust? Some people in the past believed that the features and measurement of the face can reveal a person’s inner character, especially in the eighteenth to early twentieth century when many people followed the popular pseudosciences of phrenology and physiognomy.

Though such theories are now discredited, research – including that by psychologists at the University of Aberdeen – has shown that people do make consistent judgements about other people’s character based on their face. You can learn about this research, think about whether today’s society is ‘face-ist’, and try out guessing whether human faces are AI-generated or real based on recent studies done at the University.

Curator Dr Helen Pierce said: “I’m currently writing a book on the history of British political caricature, so being able to work with the University of Aberdeen’s significant collection of satirical prints for this exhibition was both inspiring and entertaining. I hope visitors to ‘Striking Impressions’ feel the same.”

Though there’s plenty to see, there’s more to do than just look. Curator Sam Revell said: “Throughout the exhibition we’re encouraging visitors to reflect and engage with the displays creatively. There’s even a creative space in the middle of the gallery where you can just sit and use the art supplies provided. You can create a new caricature to add to our gallery wall; draw yourself, your friends, and the faces of your imagination; and see what other visitors have made in response to ‘Striking Impressions’.”

The exhibition/creative space was curated by Sam and the University’s Museums & Special Collections team, with Dr Pierce, Senior Lecturer in Art History, and Dr Clare Sutherland, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

There is an events programme starting with a ‘curator’s view’ tour on 28 February TOUR: Striking Impressions – Curator’s View | Events | Museums and Special Collections | The University of Aberdeen (, followed by a talk about the Aberdeen Sibyls, seventeenth century paintings which were given a ‘glow-up’ in the eighteenth century: Beneath the surface: solving the mystery of the Aberdeen Sibyls | Events | Museums and Special Collections | The University of Aberdeen ( 

Students from the University of Aberdeen’s Art History society will be running guided tours on Thursday lunchtimes from 13:00 – 13:30 starting from March 6. Visitors can drop in on the day to join the tour, or contact [email protected] to book a space.

There will also be an ongoing series of creative workshops and events advertised on

Striking Impressions’ exhibition/creative space is open in the Sir Duncan Rice Library, Bedford Road. Open Mon-Fri 11am–7pm, Sat & Sun 12 noon– 4pm. Entry is free and all are welcome. For further details contact [email protected] or visit

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