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National Portrait Gallery to champion the role of women in British history and culture

In partnership with Chanel, the National Portrait Gallery has launched Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture, a new three year project, which aims to enhance the representation of women in the Gallery’s Collection and highlight the often overlooked stories of individual women who have shaped British history and culture. The project is part of the new Chanel Culture Fund, a global programme of unique initiatives and partnerships that will support innovators across the arts in advancing new ideas and greater representation in culture and society.

The role of women photographers in both documenting history and encouraging other women to enter the profession will be explored further, spotlighting Edwardian photographers such as Alice Hughes, who only photographed women and children, and at the peak of her career employed up to sixty female assistants.

Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture includes the appointment of a new team led by Chanel Curator for the Collection, Dr Flavia Frigeri, which will focus on researching the Gallery’s Collection with the aim of enhancing the visibility of select figures, as well as acquiring portraits of women not yet represented and commissioning new portraits of trailblazing contemporary women. The project will increase the proportion of women artists and sitters on display at the Gallery in London when it re-opens in 2023, following a major transformation, which includes a complete re-presentation of the entire Collection and a significant refurbishment of the building.

Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture will challenge traditional notions of women’s careers and how we think about women in relation to their male counterparts. Research will also explore the cultural, institutional, social, and political factors that shape difference, including class, race, gender and sexuality. Amongst the iconic and inspirational women whose portraits and stories will be explored are: Modern painters such as Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, one of Britain’s most important émigré artists; activist, writer and artist, Ray Strachey, and Gluck, who was also a trailblazer in gender fluidity. Significant sculptors, including Anna Mahler and Patience Lovell Wright, a famous 18th century wax sculptor whose portraits preceded Madame Tussaud, will also be reconsidered.

Image: Dorothy Wilding by Dorothy Wilding, 1930s © William Hustler and Georgina Hustler / National Portrait Gallery, London.

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