Fresh faces are going up on the University’s walls to reflect its increasing diversity — and here is the full list.

Icons of iconoclasmPatricia Daley says being painted by Binny Matthews was ‘a wonderful experience’

The 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.

Award-winning author Jeanette Winterson, film and television director Ken Loach, BBC journalist Reeta Chakrabarti, eminent astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, 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.

The initiative was heralded a year ago in an article for Oxford Today by project manager Dr Ruth Scobie, who noted: ‘There are, it’s true, an awful lot of middle-aged white male faces framed on the walls of Oxford University.’

Icons of iconoclasmNovelist Diran Adebayo by Rory Carnegie

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.

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 more than a hundred nominees among living Oxonians. The new portraits will be shown at an exhibition in Oxford later this year.

Icons of iconoclasm Clementine Webster’s portrait of lawyer and disability rights campaigner Marie Tidball

Sitter Reeta Chakrabarti, who studied at Exeter College, said she hoped the initiative would help demonstrate an inclusivity that already exists at Oxford. She 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.’

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 racialised 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, was also picked for a portrait. She 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!’

Icons of iconoclasmLinguist Professor Aditi Lahiri, by Rosalie Watkins

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, noted that portraits have the power not only to dissolve prejudice but also to inspire self-confidence. She 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.’

The initiative was also hailed by Dr Rebecca Surender, Oxford’s Advocate and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality and Diversity. She commented: ‘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.’

The goal is not to make a one-off contribution to boosting the diversity of portraiture at Oxford, but to set a precedent for the future. 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.’

Icons of iconoclasmEducational psychologist Professor Kathy Sylva by Pippa Thew

The full list of sitters and artists:

Diran Adebayo (Wadham, 1986; 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 (St Hugh's, 1970; developmental neuropsychologist) — Benjamin Sullivan

Reeta Chakrabarti (Exeter, 1984; journalist) — Fran Monks

Dr Penelope Curtis (Corpus Christi, 1979; arts administrator) — Humphrey Ocean

Professor Patricia Daley (St Antony's, 1985; human geographer) — Binny Mathews

Professor Trisha Greenhalgh (University, 1980; primary health care scholar) — Fakhri Bismanto Bohang

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE (Keble, 2006; women in science campaigner) — Sarah Muirhead

Professor Dame Carole Jordan (astrophysicist) — Rupert Brooks

Professor Aditi Lahiri (linguistics scholar) — Rosalie Watkins

Kelsey Leonard (St Cross, 2010; water scholar) — artist TBC

Hilary Lister (Jesus, 1991; sailor) — Nicola Brandt

Ken Loach (St Peter's, 1957; director) — Richard Twose

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch (historian) — Joanna Vestey

Jan Morris (Christ Church, 1949; writer) — Luca Coles

Kumi Naidoo (Magdalen, 1987; human rights activist) — Fran Monks

Dr Henry Odili Nwume (Brasenose, 1995; Winter Olympian) — Sarah-Jane Moon

Dame Esther Rantzen (Somerville, 1959; broadcaster and charity campaigner) — Ander McIntyre

Professor Lyndal Roper (historian) — Miranda Creswell

Professor Kathy Sylva (educational psychologist) — Pippa Thew

Marie Tidball (Wadham, 2002; lawyer and disability rights campaigner) — Clementine Webster

Jeanette Winterson (St Catherine's, 1978; novelist) — Gerard Hanson

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This is an edited version of an article first published on Oxford University’s News and Events page, reproduced by permission. Images reproduced courtesy of the artists.


By Justin Ward

What atrocious portraits! Is this the best of the bunch? They look like the covers of evangelical leaflets.

By joan leopold

You might also wish to consider people like me, who were "brought" into Oxford before anti-immigration feeling was on the rise. I was the first Rhodes Fellow from the Western hemisphere. (not a U.K. citizen)

Joan Leopold
currently in London

By Reema Amrani

I would like to congratulate you on this initiative, but please could you add a list of the marginalised groups to which each sitter belongs, so that we can see the level of commitment to intersectionality?

By Robert Horwood

Just to express a dissenting opinion, for what it's worth, I think all of the portraits are unexceptionable and their execution fine - except the only one which is a photograph, which I think regrettable as choice of medium. Perhaps the commenter advancing the contrary opinion would have preferred them all to be photographs which - if such were the case - might say more about his judgment than about the quality of these artists' work.