Works featured from the National Portrait Gallery, the Imperial War Museum, Mount Stewart’s own collection, the Ulster Museum and the Londonderry Collection

The National Trust has today officially opened its trail blazing partnership exhibition in Northern Ireland with the National Portrait Gallery. Representatives from the organisations which have loaned these special works were joined by key partners and the historic family of Mount Stewart at a launch event to officially open the exhibition on Friday.

The grand Central Hall in Mount Stewart has been transformed to host the exhibition entitled ‘Faces of Change: Votes for Women’ from 10 November 2018 to 3 February 2019 (Thursday to Sunday).

This special exhibition presents an overview of the campaign for women’s suffrage from the late 19th century until the first decades of the twentieth century, and commemorates the passing of the act in February 1918, which gave thousands of women in Britain & Ireland the right to vote in general elections – some 100 years ago.

The exhibition paints a picture of the campaign for political representation through portraits of some of the key figures who rose to public prominence. Drawn from the National Portrait Gallery Collection, the exhibition includes well-known but also rarely seen paintings, drawings, photographs and archival documents representing individuals including suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, alongside her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. These will sit alongside portraits representing the legacy of the suffrage campaign, including a drawing of Nancy Astor, the first woman to take her seat as MP in the House of Commons, by John Singer Sargent.

One of the most intriguing items on display will be a sheet of identity photographs of suffragettes which was issued to the National Portrait Gallery by Scotland Yard in 1914, shortly after Mary Richardson had infamously slashed Velasquez’ painting known as ‘The Rokeby Venus’ in the National Gallery.

Items from Mount Stewart’s own collection will be used to tell the history of its own exceptional women, including Edith, Lady Londonderry, founder of the Women’s Legion and the first woman to be made Dame of the British Empire, Military Division. She was also a suffragist. The exhibition will not only look at her role in the campaign for women’s votes, it will spark discussion about the role and tactics employed by the peaceful suffragists compared to the militant suffragettes. As well as items from the Mount Stewart collection, will be works on loan from the Ulster Museum, Imperial War Museum and the Londonderry Collection, bringing portraiture and place together in an emotive and evocative display.

Neil Watt, House and Collections Manager at Mount Stewart said: “We are delighted that works, normally only accessible in London, will be brought to Mount Stewart to be enjoyed by our local community and visitors here. For the first time, the life of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, and her extraordinary achievements in promoting political equality for women, will be seen in a wider context here at Mount Stewart.

“In particular, a highlight of the collaboration will be a sketch by Singer Sargent of Nancy Astor, the first woman elected to Parliament to take her seat. This will be compared with our own Singer Sargent sketch of Edith Londonderry, who chose different methods to campaign for equality than her American counterpart. These two great ladies with differing opinions, will poignantly be brought together to sit side by side.”

Laura Down, Head of National Programmes, National Portrait Gallery said: “The National Portrait Gallery is delighted to have the opportunity to share its collection of portraits of key figures in the campaign for women’s suffrage with Mount Stewart, a wonderful National Trust Property. Some of the works in the exhibition have a special resonance with this property and it is very exciting to see these stories brought to life through this collaboration.”

The Faces of Change: Votes for Women displays provides a national picture of the fight for universal suffrage in the UK, giving context to the varying views on women’s suffrage and the crucial roles women across social classes played in the campaign.

The exhibition opened today and will run from Thursday-Sunday 11am-3pm until 3 February 2019.

Special events and tours will be planned for the duration. For more information visit: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mount-stewart/features/faces-of-change-votes-for-women-touring-exhibition-comes-to-mount-stewart

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