Oxford University commissions new portraits to reflect diversity

oxford university new portraits

Oxford University has commissioned over 20 new portraits, which will reflect the university’s diversity.

The Diversifying Portraiture initiative aims to broaden the range of people represented around the university.

Those sitting for portraits comprise of current academics and former students including, film and television director Ken Loach; BBC journalist Reeta Chakrabarti; women in science campaigner Anne-Marie Imafidon; lawyer and disability rights campaigner Marie Tidball; and astrophysicist Professor Dame Carole Jordan.

Speaking about the initiative, Chakrabarti, who studied at Exeter College, Oxford, said, “I loved my time at Oxford.”

“There weren’t – then – many people from my background at university there.”

“But that didn’t stop my experience from being overwhelmingly good.”

“I hope this project will show that Oxford is open to everyone, and that it wants to be more so. I hope too that it reflects present-day Oxford back at itself, and that it encourages an ever more diverse range of people to study there.”

Dr Tidball, a research associate in Oxford’s Centre for Criminology and a disability rights campaigner said, “Rendering diversity to be more visible in the places and spaces of Oxford reinforces the importance of its more central role in the University’s intellectual life.”

“I was very moved indeed to have been nominated, and honoured to be part of this important project.”

“It was wonderful for the University to recognise the importance of teaching and research about disability in academia.”

“Working with Clementine Webster was a joy, and the sittings were a very special, and surprisingly relaxing, experience.”

“After a busy year, I really appreciated the time to reflect and be still!”

The portraits will include a mixture of both men and women and will feature people with disabilities, people from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and people from LGBTQ+ communities.

The project, funded by the Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity Fund, previously catalogued existing paintings from around the university that highlight the range of pioneering figures whose achievements over the centuries have challenged the stereotypes of their time.

The newly commissioned works will feature in the university’s central public spaces and will add to Oxford’s rich collection of college and university portraits. Sitters were selected from over a hundred nominations of living Oxonians.

The new portraits will be shown at an exhibition in Oxford later this year.

Professor Lousie Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford said, “There is nothing quite like walking into a room and seeing someone who looks like you honoured in a portrait on the wall.”

“It is so important for al of us to be reminded that achievement and leadership come in all colours, shapes and sizes.”

Trudy Coe, Head of the Equality and Diversity Unit at Oxford University said, “This project is so important because it highlights and celebrates the full range of diversity at Oxford across our alumni and staff.”

“Many colleges have already commissioned new works of art celebrating female alumnae, and we hope that this project will encourage all our departments and colleges think of ways to celebrate the full diversity of our staff and student body, as an inspiration to current and future students and staff.”

Alison Simpson
About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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