The National Portrait Gallery has commissioned a seven-panel mural depicting 130 women from British history, as part of the gallery’s three-year project to increase female representation in its collection.
Titled Work In Progress, the mural was created by Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake. It is inspired by the album cover for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which Haworth co-created in 1967.
Work In Progress will combine stencilled pictures of the 130 cultural figures into a single image. Those featured range from Boudicca to Dame Mary Beard, and include 26 women who, until now, have not been represented in the gallery’s collection. Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Dame Sarah Gilbert, Barbara Lisicki and Ellen Craft are among this group.
We are delighted to announce the commission of Work in Progress (2021-2), an important new group portrait co-created by artists Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake. This large scale work will feature 130 brilliant women from British history and culture. #InternationalWomensDay pic.twitter.com/phbq1bGwNn
— National Portrait Gallery (@NPGLondon) March 8, 2023
The mural alone will see the National Portrait Gallery double the number of women on the walls of its post-1900 galleries. Once on display – after the gallery reopens in June following a major refurbishment – women will make up 48% of the depicted people in the modern galleries.
The gallery also revealed there will be over 100 portraits by women post-1900 on display.
Speaking about the commission, Flavia Frigeri, Chanel curator at NPG, said: “Trailblazing women of the past are role models for the future.”
Among the famous figures, a blank silhouette is left “for the viewer to add their own choice to the mural”, Haworth explained.
According to Blake, “The mural presents an opportunity to see life-sized figures from throughout history, impossibly crowded together… 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.”