Painting the Poets by Claire Eastgate:
A Portrait Artist’s response to contemporary voices in poetry 


Painting the Poets is a unique concept: a collection of painted portraits by Claire Eastgate that celebrates the lives and work of some of the UK’s finest contemporary female poets.

Claire Eastgate is creating a legacy project documenting an unprecedented time in history where a growing cohort of women are making their voices heard through writing and performing poetry that brings fresh perspectives to contemporary issues and mores.

The vibrant portraits reflect the rich diversity of the UK’s poets; the art of portraiture and the poetry of these powerful voices merging together. From 2020, a series of exhibitions are set to engage and inspire a broad and diverse audience.

The idea for Painting the Poets was conceived as Eastgate worked on a double portrait to honour the important contribution to poetry of Gillian Clarke, former National Poet of Wales and Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, whose term as Poet Laureate ended in May 2019. The painting was shortlisted for the National Portrait Gallery BP Award 2017, which went on to tour the UK.

Duffy being made the first woman Poet Laureate was an historic event in the royal appointment’s 400 year history. Eastgate’s portrait simultaneously marks Duffy’s personal achievement and draws attention to the erstwhile absence of women in the laureateship timeline thus far. Eastgate became aware of the groundswell of a new generation of women writing poetry in the wake of Duffy’s laureateship, one that is shaping -and being shaped, by shifting social norms. Eastgate’s discovery of these eclectic new voices served as a catalyst for her project.

Eastgate chooses poets whose work speak to her, ranging in age from mid-twenties to early eighties. They include both new talent and established names, from Scottish Makar Jackie Kay to international rap star Kate Tempest. Not surprisingly, this makes for a rich diversity in the style of work, from written to spoken word, performance and rap. There is also diversity across the poets’ background, heritage and ethnicity, making the collection representative of the UK’s global nature: north and south of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and also internationally: Egypt, Syria, the Caribbean, China, Australia and India.

From 2020 the portraits will be exhibited at selected galleries, museums and art venues with readings and performances by some of the poets. Accompanying the portraits will be short films of the poets being painted and in conversation with the artist, documenting the fascinating journey from first meeting to the creation of the artwork.

Major poetry organisations in the UK (The Poetry Society, The Poetry School, Poet in the City and The Poetry Book Society) have all expressed interest and support in Painting the Poets and various collaborative events are in development, the first of which, “Women in the Frame”, will take place on November 6th 2019 as part of Poet in the City’s “Venus Unwrapped” season at King’s Place, London.

An anthology of the poets’ work is planned to accompany the series of portraits and exhibitions. Eastgate's vision is then to take the project to an international stage and, where appropriate, include indigenous poets painted by local artists.

Poetry and art can document and spur transformation. An integral aim is for the project to demonstrate the power of poetry in providing a platform for speaking of, from, and against oppression -wherever it is to

be found.

Claire Eastgate

“It has been exhilarating to meet the people behind the voices of contemporary poetry, a real privilege. I want to celebrate the fact that so many of these voices are female. These poets are speaking out for themselves and for all of us, by putting words to subjects and experiences that have been previously hidden or suppressed. One person’s risk taking makes another person bold enough to break a silence, to also choose expression over repression creating new dialogues that are long overdue. As this process snowballs, it changes the conversation and opens up possibilities.

Portraiture has long had an important role in recording those people who contribute something of value to human society. This is a fantastic opportunity to create a real legacy; with an international exhibition tour and ongoing series of cultural events that celebrate the poets in paint, and promote their work to wider and new audiences, nationally and internationally.”

Claire Eastgate is an established portrait painter. She has over 16 years’ experience creating projects and exhibitions and working on commissions for private clients, collectors and institutions. Noted subjects are Her Majesty the Queen, commissioned by the Kennel Club; and the Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Ann Duffy. In 2017, her double portrait of Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales, was shortlisted for the BP Award Exhibition and was one of 3 shortlisted for the BP Travel Award at the National Portrait Gallery, which went on to tour the UK. Her self portraits were shortlisted for the 2015 and 2017 Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize exhibition. Eastgate runs regular workshops in portraiture and lives and works between London and

The Poets so far: Lucy Aphramor, Mona Arshi, Emily Berry, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Gillian Clarke, Ella Duffy, Imitiaz Dharker, Carol Ann Duffy, Menna Elfyn, Salena Godden, Jen Hadfield, Sara Howe, Emma Jones, Jackie Kay, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Liz Lefroy, Lisa Luxx, Sabrina Mahfouz, Momtaza Mehri, Hollie McNish, Paula Meehan, Kim Moore, Helen Mort, Heather Phillipson, Deanna Rodger, Bethany Rose, Hannah Sullivan, Joelle Taylor, Kate Tempest, Jane Yeh

Painting the Poets: An art project by Claire Eastgate copyright 2019.

Creative Director: Sylvie Gormezano Contact: Sylvie Gormezano 07785 366492 / or Claire Eastgate 07840 056206 /