The King commissions 'Windrush: Portraits of a Pioneering Generation'

Published

Marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush to British shores in 1948, His Majesty The King has commissioned ten leading artists, from Britain and abroad, to create portraits of ten pioneering members of the Windrush Generation.

BBC Arts will release a 75-minute documentary, 'Windrush: Portraits of a Generation', about the project to commemorate National Windrush Day on 22nd June 2023.

It is, I believe, crucially important that we should truly see and hear these pioneers who stepped off the Empire Windrush at Tilbury in June 1948 - only a few months before I was born -  and those who followed over the decades, to recognise and celebrate the immeasurable difference that they, their children and their grandchildren have made to this country.

His Majesty The King

The completed portraits will become part of the Royal Collection and stand as a lasting memorial to all the men, women and children who came to Britain from the Caribbean and gave so much of themselves to rebuild a nation devasted by war.

The sitters, selected from across the UK, have been chosen by The Windrush Portraits Committee, a sub-committee of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, comprising Baroness Floella Benjamin, the Right Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Mr Rudolph Walker and Ms Paulette Simpson.

The sitters and artists are:

  • Delisser Bernard painted by Honor Titus
  • Alford Gardner painted by Chloe Cox
  • Linda Haye painted by Shannon Bono
  • Edna Henry painted by Amy Sherald
  • Carmen Munroe painted by Sonia Boyce
  • Gilda Oliver painted by Clifton Powell
  • Sir Geoff Palmer painted by Derek Fordjour
  • Laceta Reid painted by Serge Attukwei Clottey
  • ‘Big’ John Richards painted by Deanio X
  • Jessie Stephens painted by Sahara Longe

During the BBC documentary, audiences will hear first hand testimony from the Windrush sitters, many of whom are in their 90s, as they speak frankly about their experiences of arriving in Britain; making lives for themselves and the overwhelming contribution they have made to their communities, and the nation as a whole.

The film also follows the making of the portraits, as artist and sitter come together, with the artists reflecting on their own experience of undertaking this special commission, as well as offering insights into their own unique creative approach.

The ten portraits will go on display at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh from 22nd June to 16th October 2023 and The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace from 10th November 2023 to 14th April 2024 in an exhibition entitled 'Windrush: Portraits of a Pioneering Generation'. 

The Royal Collection Trust, Royal Drawing School and The Open University are collaborating to design an education programme to celebrate the contribution of the Windrush Generation, including downloadable teaching resources for schools and live drawing workshops.

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