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

 Victoria Adukwei Bulley

Victoria Adukwei Bulley

Painting the Poets is a unique concept. An exhibition of painted portraits by Claire Eastgate celebrating the lives and work of some the UK’s finest contemporary female poets. Eastgate is creating a legacy project documenting an unprecedented time in history where a growing collective of women’s voices are writing and performing poetry with fresh perspectives. Launching at a London venue in Autumn 2019 these vibrant portraits of 26 poets displaying the rich diversity of their lives and work will be seen for the first time. Where portraiture and the powerful voice of poetry merge into one, the exhibition is set to engage and inspire a broad and diverse audience.

The idea for the exhibition was conceived as Eastgate worked on a double portrait to honour the important contributions to poetry of Gillian Clarke, former National Poet of Wales and Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, whose term as Poet Laureate draws to a close in 2019. The painting was shortlisted for the National Portrait Gallery BP Award 2017 which went on to tour the UK. Eastgate’s collection also includes a portrait of the current Scots Makar, (national poet of Scotland); Jackie Kay, MBE. The project has the backing of all three poets.

Selecting poets whose work speaks to her, Eastgate’s chosen 26 poets range in age from mid- twenties to early eighties. From new talent to established, including the national poet laureates. The diversity in this selection is not only in the style of their work, from written to spoken word and rap, but also their background, heritage and ethnicity, giving the collection a true global flavour: north and south of England, Scotland, Ireland and also beyond, from Egypt, Syria, the Caribbean, China, Australia and India. For list of poets see over.

The opening event will include performances by some of the poets as well as an introduction to the exhibition by Gillian Clarke. A programme of cultural events including poetry performances, combined workshops, slam competitions and talks will run throughout the duration of the exhibition. The three main poetry societies in the UK (Poet in the City, The Poetry Book Society and the Poetry Society) all wish to collaborate on the event programme.

An anthology of the poets’ work is planned to accompany the exhibition, and subsequently to tour the exhibition throughout the UK. Eastgate's vision is to take the project to an international stage, with indigenous poets painted by local artists. A legacy celebrating not only poetry worldwide but providing a platform in more oppressed cultures for voices to speak out through poetry.


Eastgate Quote:

Meeting the voices of contemporary poetry has been an exciting voyage of discovery for me and I want to celebrate the fact that so many of these voices are female. These poets are speaking out to give expression to subjects and experiences that have often remained hidden in the past and creating new dialogues that are long overdue.

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 a global exhibition tour and ongoing series of cultural events that celebrate the poets in paint, and promotes their work to wider and new audiences nationally and internationally.”


Claire Eastgate

Claire Eastgate is an established portrait painter. She has over 15 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 one of 53 shortlisted from 2,580 entries from portrait artists in 87 countries for the BP Award Exhibition and the BP Travel Award at the National Portrait Gallery and it is currently touring the UK.

In both 2015 and 2017 she was one of the 120 portrait artists, selected from over a thousand entrants, for the Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Prize exhibition. Eastgate runs regular workshops in portraiture and works between London and Shropshire.


The Poets

Lucy Aphramor, Mona Arshi, Emily Berry, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Gillian Clarke, 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, Hollie McNish, Paula Meehan, Kim Moore, Helen Mort, Heather Phillipson, Deanna Rodger, Joelle Taylor, Kate Tempest, Jane Yeh


Painting the Poets: An art project by Claire Eastgate copyright 2018

Creative Director: Sylvie Gormezano
Marketing: Piledrivers – Sue & Caroline Pile
Public Relations & Research: Rachel White