Diversifying Portraiture
Paintings of Marie Tidball (left) and Professor Patricia Daley were commissioned as part of the Diversifying Portraiture initiative.

Image credits: Marie Tidball - Clementine Webster; Professor Patricia Daley - Binny Mathews.  

More than 20 new portraits commissioned to reflect Oxford University's diversity

Oxford University has announced the full list of sitters and artists taking part in its Diversifying Portraiture initiative, which aims to broaden the range of people represented around the University.

Film and television director Ken Loach, BBC journalist Reeta Chakrabarti, eminent astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, award-winning author Jeanette Winterson, and human rights activist Kumi Naidoo are among those sitting for portraits as Oxford seeks to reflect and promote its increasing diversity and its commitment to inclusivity. Artists include Benjamin Sullivan, Joanna Vestey and Ander McIntyre, and the sitters comprise current academics and former students.

Portraits – mostly paintings and photographs, some of which have already been completed – will include a mixture of men and women and will feature people with disabilities, people from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and people from LGBTQ+ communities.

Diarmaid MacCullochProfessor Diarmaid MacCulloch, by Joanna Vestey.

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.

BBC journalist Reeta 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.'

Kumi NaidooKumi Naidoo, by Fran Monks.
Professor Patricia Daley, Professor of the Human Geography of Africa at Oxford University, was chosen to be one of the sitters. She said: 'This project is a bold attempt by the University to make a statement about inclusivity, and I was happy to be part of it. Having my portrait painted by Binny Matthews was a wonderful experience and gave me plenty to think about – what it's like to be an educator at Oxford, the importance of my contribution as a woman racialized as black, and the ways in which our physical features are perceived by others.'

Dr Marie 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!'

Professor Louise 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 all of us to be reminded that achievement and leadership come in all colours, shapes and sizes.'

Dr Rebecca Surender, Advocate and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality and Diversity at Oxford University, said: 'It is hugely important for students and staff to feel at home at Oxford, and to feel inspired by people they can relate to. This series of portraits, created by a talented group of artists, will broaden the range of people represented around the University. All of those selected to take part have made enormous contributions to Oxford life and to society more widely.'

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 to think of ways to celebrate the full diversity of our staff and student body, as an inspiration to current and future students and staff.'

The full list of sitters and artists:

Diran Adebayo (novelist) – Rory Carnegie
Dr Norma Aubertin-Potter (librarian) – Emily Carrington Freeman
Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell (astrophysicist) – Ben Hughes
Professor Dame Valerie Beral (epidemiologist) – Samantha Fellows
Professor Dorothy Bishop (developmental neuropsychologist) – Benjamin Sullivan
Reeta Chakrabarti (journalist) – Fran Monks
Dr Penelope Curtis (arts administrator) – Humphrey Ocean
Professor Patricia Daley (human geographer) – Binny Mathews
Professor Trisha Greenhalgh (primary health care scholar) – Fakhri Bismanto Bohang
Anne-Marie Imafidon (women in science campaigner) – Sarah Muirhead
Professor Dame Carole Jordan (astrophysicist) – Rupert Brooks
Professor Aditi Lahiri (linguistics scholar) – Rosalie Watkins
Kelsey Leonard (water scholar) – artist TBC
Hilary Lister (sailor) – Nicola Brandt
Ken Loach (director) – Richard Twose
Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch (historian) – Joanna Vestey
Jan Morris (writer) – Luca Coles
Kumi Naidoo (human rights activist) – Fran Monks
Dr Henry Odili Nwume (Winter Olympian) – Sarah-Jane Moon
Dame Esther Rantzen (broadcaster and charity campaigner) – Ander McIntyre
Professor Lyndal Roper (historian) – Miranda Creswell
Professor Kathy Sylva (educational psychologist) – Pippa Thew
Marie Tidball (lawyer and disability rights campaigner) – Clementine Webster
Jeanette Winterson (novelist) – Gerard Hanson