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Portrait of Victoria Adukwei Bulley by artist Clae Eastgate

painting the poets

A Portrait Artist’s response to

contemporary voices in poetry 

Victoria Adukwei Bulley

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. 

The Poets - A portrait of Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy

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Imtiaz Dharker

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Portrait of Joelle Taylor by artist Clae

A portrait of Joelle Taylor (reading C+nto)

joelle taylor

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 2022, a series of exhibitions are set to engage and inspire a broad and diverse audience. 

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Sabrina Mahfouz

RED RED - A portrait of Jackie Kay CBE, FRSE, FRSL. Scottish National Portrait Gallery permanent Collection

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Heather Phillipson

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

Gillian Clarke

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Menna Elfyn

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

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

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Salena Godden

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Emily Berry

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.

Melissa Lee Houghton

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Kim Moore


The initial sittings with the poets

The sittings are the key to the portrait. Essentially it is time spent with the poet in conversation. An exchange of stories, thoughts, ideas and so on, as a way of understanding and connecting that vital line between artist and poet. During these sessions I continually paint oil sketches, several, and take photos, notes, drawings etc - anything  that will help form the ideas and composition for the main portrait. It has been the best part of this journey - meeting the poets.

Portrait of Hollie McNish by artist Clae Eastgate, Painting the Poets

With Hollie McNish, Joelle Taylor and Bethany Rose 2018/19 - oil sketches are made during these sessions to familiarise myself with the subject. The main portrait is then created in my studio using all the reference material from the sittings.

“It has been exhilarating to meet the people behind the voices of contemporary poetry, a real privilege. I want to celebrate the fact that many of these voices are women. 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

Portraits of Mona Arshi, Hannah Sullivan, Heather Phillipson, Menna Elfyn, Kae Tempest by artist Clae Eastgate

With Mona Arshi, Deanna Rodger, Hannah Sullivan, Menna Elfyn, Heather Phillipson and Kae Tempest 2018/2019

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Gillian Clarke with Carol Ann Duffy

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