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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Focus on Slade Women Artists 2017 – 2018

By Martine Rouleau, on 19 June 2017


Paula Rego, Under Milkwood

Paula Rego, Under Milkwood, 1954, Oil on canvas,
UCL Art Museum 5581. © The Artist.
First Prize Equal for Summer
Composition, 1954. All UCL Art
Museum’s paintings can be viewed online at Art UK

Spotlight on the Slade Collections is a research project supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, aimed at increasing access to UCL Art Museum’s Slade Collections through research, cataloguing, digitisation, collaboration and public engagement. Emerging out of this project for 2017 – 2018, UCL Art Museum will focus its research and events programming on a key component of the collection: Slade Women Artists.

Approximately 45% of works in UCL Art Museum’s collection are by women artists. Typically, permanent collections in Europe and the US contain between 3-5% of works by women. For their recent exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, art activists the Guerrilla Girls sent questionnaires to 383 European museums and collections to ascertain the gender and nationality balance within their collections. Of the 101 institutions that responded, only 2 collections contained 40% or more works by women.

Elinor Monsell, Programme Cover

Elinor Monsell (1879 – 1954; Slade 1896 – c.1899), Programme Cover, c. 1898, wood engraving, UCL Art Museum 7294. ©The Artist’s Estate.
Elinor Monsell’s programme cover design for the Abbey Theatre is still in use today as the theatre logo.

The Slade Collection, having been acquired annually since 1897 via the prize system at the Slade School of Fine Art, provides a unique resource for the study of women artists. Works entered the collection with no foreknowledge of the artist’s future position in the art world – a reverse practice to that of most public collections. Consequently, the Slade collection holds works by both well- and little-known women artists, affording a wealth of primary research material.

UCL Art Museum’s 2017/18 focus on Slade Women is an opportunity to concentrate research and showcase this area of the collection, exploring questions ranging from the role of artists’ networks in advancing professional practice and innovation, to interrogating the structures that support gender hierarchies within established exhibition and curating practices.  Developing and establishing a growing research network around this historically significant archive, a series of events, displays and collaborations will take place against the backdrop of the centenary of the Representation of the People Act.


UCL Art Museum hosted the fourth meeting of the Tate British Art Network Sub Group British Women Artists 1750-1950 on 9th may 2017, as a precursor to the start of the Slade Women research focus.  Piloting a participatory workshop model and experimenting with new ways of capturing specialist knowledge in relation to a primarily stored collection, the meeting provided a platform for research and debate and an opportunity to examine methods of curating women’s art.

Images from the workshop. ©Natalia Janula. Image copyright UCL Art Museum.

Images from the workshop. ©Natalia Janula. Image copyright UCL Art Museum.

With over 20 participant professionals in the field, the workshop successfully generated research into 17 neglected Slade women artists and facilitated debate around ways of exhibiting and displaying women’s work.  In addition to achieving new opportunities for collaboration, the outcomes of the workshop will inform and shape UCL Art Museum’s work on Slade Women Artists for 2017/18.


Sculpture is severely underrepresented in the Slade Collection, with only a handful of prizewinning works being retained despite the subject being included in the curriculum since the establishment of the Slade School of Fine Art.  The works which were kept provide a fascinating hint of the changing discipline at the school, ranging from medals sculpted under the tutelage of Alphonse Legros (Slade Professor 1876 – 1892) to works dating from the 1950s by Peter King, Rosemary Young, Reg Butler and Anthony Hatwell.

Peter King (1927 – 1957) Untitled, c. 1953 – 7, copper alloy, UCL Art Museum 10009. © The Artist.

Peter King (1927 – 1957) Untitled, c. 1953 – 7, copper alloy, UCL Art Museum 10009. © The Artist.

This work by Peter King is currently on display in UCL’s Octagon Gallery exhibition, Spotlight: Illuminating stories from UCL Culture.  The Art Museum display, a further outcome of Spotlight on the Slade Collections, seeks to provide an insight into the history of teaching at the school as well as highlighting gaps in the collection such as sculpture and computer art.  Identification of gaps in the collection has been a significant outcome of the project and following the 2017-2018 focus on Slade Women, UCL Art Museum’s next research focus will be on Sculpture at the Slade:  Where are the prizewinning works which were not retained for the collection?  Who were the artists that emerged, and what happened after they left the School?


We are thrilled to have collaborated with Art UK (formerly the Public Catalogue Foundation) since 2005, when we were one of the first public collections to have our oil paintings collection digitised and published in London: The Slade and UCL (The Public Catalogue Foundation, London, 2005) and then online on the PCF / BBC Your Paintings website.  This amazing resource continues to expand, with projects including the addition of works on paper and a project to record publicly owned sculpture in the UK.  An online record of sculpture in public collections will be an invaluable resource for UCL Art Museum’s future research on the Slade prize-winning works in sculpture.

For updates on our planned programmes, keep an eye on the UCL Culture website.

To find out more about Spotlight on the Slade Collections, please contact Helen Downes, Paul Mellon Centre Research Curator, at ucwedow@ucl.ac.uk.

One Response to “Focus on Slade Women Artists 2017 – 2018”

  • 1
    Rosanna Eckersley wrote on 17 July 2017:

    The workshop at the Art Museum (9th May) organised for the British Art Network sub-group British Women Artists was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with researchers and explore the work of women who had studied at the Slade. The recent emergence of Winifred Knights (1899-1947) from obscurity (including an exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2016 curated by Sacha Llewellyn) was also facilitated by research at the Museum, which holds more than 700 of Knights’ drawings and paintings, including Village Street: Mill-Hands Conversing, for which the artist was awarded the Slade Summer Composition Prize in 1919.
    UCL Art Museum holds drawings for Knights’ reredos Scenes from the Life of Saint Martin of Tours (St Martin’s Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral, 1933), which was commissioned in 1928 in memory of politician Alfred Lord Milner. My article on the reredos, developed from my PhD thesis completed in 2015, examines the commission and its contexts; it is published in Visual Culture in Britain and online at http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/CKzKXxXKmMgBGtFiJ5SV/full
    The drawings in the Art Museum (and in other collections) show how Knights developed her ideas for the reredos and how subject and composition mattered, including bare background hills and bright colour to give clarity to three narratives on a relatively small canvas. Knights’ concern for the lives of women and children, common to women artists’ work, emerges in the beautiful central panel of the reredos.

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