painting the poets

 A Portrait Artist’s response to

contemporary voices in poetry 

Painting the Poets is a unique project: a collection of painted portraits by Clae Eastgate that celebrates

the lives and work of some of the UK's finest contemporary female poets. 

Clae 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. 

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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 2021, a series of exhibitions are set to engage and inspire a broad and diverse audience. 


sabrina mahfouz

heather phillipson

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 exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery BP Award 2017, which went on to tour the UK.

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Women in Frame at Kings Place London with Poet in the City Venus Unwrapped season 2019

From 2021 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.

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RED RED A portrait of Jackie Kay CBE, FRSE, FRSL

AIR AND LIGHT, a portrait of Dame Carol Ann Duffy, Scottish National Portrait Gallery permanent Collection.

GILLIAN CLARKE Former National Poet of Wales

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.




The initial sittings with the poets

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With Hollie McNish, Joelle Taylor and Bethany Rose 2018/19

“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.” Clae Eastgate 2019

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WIth Mona Arshi, Deanna Rodger, Hannah Sullivan, Menna Elfyn & Heather Phillipson 2018/2019

Click here to read entire overview of the Painting the Poets project, including the list of pets currently being painted

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With Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy 2016