Making her mark at Beningbrough Hall

Amy Winehouse portrait at Beningbrough Hall

Until 4 November, Beningbrough Hall’s four Saloon Galleries are home to some famous and familiar faces from the contemporary creative arts. The ‘Making her mark: celebrating creative women’ exhibition in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, showcases women who have influenced the worlds of literature, dance and drama with a diverse range of striking portraits, plus some extra sights and sounds, making your visit even more memorable.

Women and Power

Throughout the year and across its properties, the National Trust is celebrating Women and Power – their lives, voices and achievements - to mark the 100th anniversary of women starting to gain the right to vote. Beningbrough has been influenced by a series of strong female characters, in particular Lady Chesterfield, the most recent owner of Beningbrough and a force to be reckoned with. Her portrait features in the exhibition. 

Archives show that Beningbrough had a strong tradition of entertainment and leisure, playing host to evening balls, amateur theatricals, music, art and portraiture. It’s therefore fitting that Beningbrough today recognises some key contemporary British women who have made their mark on British culture through writing, music, performance and dance, with portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery until 4 November 2018.

See the famous faces close up in the galleries
Visitors enjoying the Making her Mark exhibition and the Maggi Hambling self portrait
See the famous faces close up in the galleries

The exhibition of 18 portraits including 14 new contemporary loans from the National Portrait Gallery, plus an interactive jukebox and a stunning costume from the film The Duchess, has a modern feel against the eighteenth century architectural backdrop of the hall. The artwork stands out in striking fashion, with its different scales and media; you’ll want to take your time to immerse yourselves in the stories behind the sitters. 

What to expect as you journey through the Saloon Galleries 

Making her mark in art and acting

From high art to popular and the very personal, the first gallery hosts five National Portrait Gallery portraits recognising women in the arts, including an impressive painting of Dame Judi Dench. A natural portrait on a plain white backdrop, Dame Judi is dressed out of costume and in her own clothes. You will find yourself drawn to her eyes, looking directly back at you. Alongside Dame Judi are four more remarkable women including a contrasting, small scale painting of Dame Helen Mirren, a personal self-portrait of Maggi Hambling, a photograph of Dame Barbara Hepworth which first appeared in Tatler and an intimate photograph of Tracey Emin dressed as Frida Kahlo, highlighting the connection between the two women.

Making her mark in writing

Wander through to the next gallery where we celebrate women in writing with four portraits. The National Trust’s portrait of Lady Chesterfield dominates the room in recognition of her prolific wartime letter writing. Yet hanging at each end of the gallery you will find the portraits of modern day authors, Iris Murdoch and Noel Streatfield, recognised for creating stories which transport us to different worlds and different ways of thinking. Greeting you at the top of the stairs outside the Saloon, you’ll find J.K. Rowling, a female author writing, in what was seen at the time of her first book, in a boy’s genre. 

" Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve."
- J.K. Rowling

Making her mark: eighteenth century creative women

At a time when women held traditional roles in society with less opportunity for empowerment, we acknowledge how social standing influenced creativity. From the dress worn in the film The Duchess by Keira Knightley, in her role as Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, the style icon, author and activist of noble birth to one of the outstanding theatrical personalities of her time, yet from humble origins, the Irish actress Peg Woffington, depicted laying in her bed prior to her death in 1760.

Making her mark in music and dance

Head to the North Gallery, turn on the jukebox and step into the world of music and dance. Enjoy tracks by Amy Winehouse, Grace Jones, Neneh Cherry and Dame Janet Baker while looking at their portraits. The photo of Amy Winehouse was taken at an opportune moment by Venetia Dearden immediately after Amy left the stage at Glastonbury. Dominating the room is Dame Darcey Bussell, a stunning painting which accentuates her strength and her grace. And from a different era, but also 'en pointe' is Dame Margot Fonteyn, prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet.

You never know who you might meet in the galleries
Two women with a large portrait of a ballerina behind
You never know who you might meet in the galleries

Sitters and their stories

Setting the scene for the exhibition before you reach the Saloon Galleries, is the striking painting of Lisa Kelly by Tanya Raabe-Webber, painted during the 'Sitters and their stories' artist in residency at Beningbrough last year. Lisa’s story is one of a struggle for acceptance and equality as a transgender woman. Artist Tanya celebrates Lisa’s freedom in a painting that captures the essence of the sitter through her collaborative conversational approach to portraiture.


Sitters and their stories at Beningbrough Hall

As part of the prejudice and pride celebrations in 2017, Beningbrough was host to 'Sitters and their stories'. Take a look at the short video which gives a flavour of the live portraiture and audience participation.

See 'Making her mark: celebrating creative women' in the Saloon Galleries at Beningbrough Hall, Gallery and Gardens on open days from 3 March - 4 November 2018. The hall and galleries open at 12noon with the garden and restaurant open at 10.30am.

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