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National Portrait Gallery to double the number of women on walls in post-1900 collection

New work from Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake will depict 130 women who have impacted British culture

Nicole Vassell
Wednesday 08 March 2023 12:38 GMT
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The National Portrait Gallery has announced a new commission that will double the number of women displayed in its post-1900 collection.

Work in Progress (2021-22) is a group portrait co-created by artists Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake.

Made of seven panels, the piece depicts 130 women who have had a significant impact on British history and culture.

Inspired by the cover for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which Haworth also co-created in 1967, the mural draws together many stencilled depictions of cultural figures into a single image.

The women depicted in Work in Progress range from the first century to the current day.

Some of the women in the piece include Boudicca, Anne Boleyn, Vivienne Westwood, Nicola Adams, Gina Yashere and Amy Winehouse.

“For the viewer, the mural presents an opportunity to see life-sized figures from throughout history, impossibly crowded together,” Haworth said of the piece.

“The idea that Elizabeth I might stand shoulder to shoulder with Lady Caroline Norton in a crowd is amusing, invokes curiosity, and helps people learn more about the contributions of some of the women who have played a part in shaping the world that we live in.”

Work in Progress at National Portrait Gallery (National Portrait Gallery)

Work in Progress is part of a wider project named Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture. A three-year undertaking, the project is created in partnership with the CHANEL Culture Fund, which aims to increase the representation of women within the Gallery’s collection.

Focusing on the 20th and 21st centuries, Reframing Narratives has seen the gallery readdress historic gender imbalances in its post-1900 collection.

More than 200 portraits of women made after 1900 and over 100 portraits by women made after 1900 will be displayed when the gallery reopens on 22 June, after a three-year renovation.

As a result, 48 per cent of the portraits on display in those galleries will be of women.

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