UCLan students recreate iconic feminist artwork featuring modern British heroines

Reimagined Famous Women Dinner Service 1932 to go on display at Tate Exchange Liverpool

Illustration students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have reimagined an iconic piece of work from the 1930s featuring portraits of famous women in history.

The seven talented students have taken inspiration from The Famous Women Dinner Service 1932; a well-known feminist artwork by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant that depicts portraits of famous women in history on dinner plates. The UCLan version features 14 modern British heroines who have made their mark in society.

Chosen heroines include documentary maker and journalist Stacey Dooley, Baroness Brenda Hale, who was the first woman to be appointed President of the Supreme Court and former politician MP Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016.

The New Pantheon Dinner Service will go on display at the Tate Exchange Liverpool from Monday 8 – Saturday 13 April as part of The Famous Women project, which includes workshop throughout the week for the public to take part in.

The 14 women chosen to feature in the Dinner Service were chosen by the Fawcett Society, Girlguiding UK, Walthamstow School Sixth Formers and participants at the Paul Mellon Centre’s ‘Famous Women’ dinner party. The 14th, Jo Cox, was chosen by organisers Dr Amy Binns, of UCLan, and Dr Hana Leaper, of Liverpool John Moores University.

Dr Amy Binns is a senior journalism lecturer at UCLan whose research focuses on how post-World War One pageants allowed women to express their views following on from the radicalism of the suffragettes.

“Women in the 1920s and 30s were trying to create a new history that reflected their new status as citizens. There weren’t many women in the history books they were reading, and they wanted to celebrate the women who had also created Britain. That meant thinking about what values they wanted to honour, and who was worthy to be commemorated.

The groups that took part in our vote have done the same thing and they’ve come up with some really interesting choices. The plates are stunning and I think they are a fitting tribute to our modern heroines.

Most visitors won’t know all the names, and that’s part of the point. These women may not be celebrities, they may not be wealthy or beautiful, but they have all helped create amazing things and so build a better Britain.”

Dr Amy Binns

The students were supervised by UCLan illustration lecturers Maria Stuart and Steve Wilkin.

Sally Whitton, 47, has illustrated Jo Cox and artist Bridget Riley.

“I’m from West Yorkshire myself so it’s a huge honour to be able to illustrate Jo as part of this project. I’m excited to be part of a Tate Liverpool exhibition and I hope people are inspired by the strong women we’ve chosen.”

Sally Whitton
Sally Whitton with her illustration of Jo Cox

Fellow illustration student 20-year-old Daniel Nelson selected activists Marai Larisi and Marcia Willis Stewart as his subjects.

“It’s an interesting project to be involved in. I wanted to focus on these two women in particular because they speak out against domestic violence and human rights abuse and these messages are very relevant in modern society,”

Daniel Nelson
Daniel Nelson with his Marai Larisi illustration

The idea behind The Famous Women project is for people to look back through history and choose their own hero or heroine. More information about the exhibition is available on the Tate Exchange Liverpool website.

To view images of the students with the plates, visit the UCLan Flickr gallery.

Words by Lyndsey Boardman

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