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Sylvia Pankhurst

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Sylvia Pankhurst

by Sylvia Pankhurst
chalk, circa 1907-1910
26 1/8 in. x 20 1/8 in. (663 mm x 511 mm)
Given by S.E. Boucher, 1974
Primary Collection
NPG 4999

Sitterback to top

  • Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960), Militant suffragette; daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst. Sitter in 19 portraits, Artist of 3 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960), Militant suffragette; daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst. Artist of 3 portraits, Sitter in 19 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • MacCarthy, Fiona, Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy 1860-1960, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 16 October 2014 - 11 January 2015), p. 52
  • Rideal, Liz, Mirror Mirror: Self-portraits by Women Artists, 2001 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 September 2001 to 20 January 2002), p. 55 Read entry

    Born in Manchester, the second of the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst's (1858-1928) three daughters, Sylvia Pankhurst won a scholarship to the Manchester Municipal School of Art. Here she won several prizes, including the Procter Memorial Travelling Scholarship, which enabled her to visit Florence and Venice in 1902 specifically to view mosaics. In the spring of 1903 she returned home to execute a commission (organised by her mother) for murals for Pankhurst Hall, Salford, which had been built by the Independent Labour Party to honour her father, Richard Marsden Pankhurst (1835-98). Later that year Sylvia came first in a national competition for a scholarship to the Royal College of Art and so moved to London.

    In 1904 she joined in her first political demonstration, at the Albert Hall, and spent her Christmas holidays back home in Manchester painting banners which read 'Votes for Women', in readiness for the General Election of 1906. Whilst studying she continued to be active in London's East End branch of the Women's Social and Political Union, a suffrage organisation that had been jointly founded by her mother and elder sister Christabel (1880-1958). She designed the members' card for the organisation and in 1906 was imprisoned for the first time for her part in a WSPU protest. This drawing can possibly be dated from that time, as she appears to be wearing prison clothing. It is also known that on her release Sylvia gave the press sketches she had made 'inside' in order to expose the dire conditions. She was later imprisoned many times and went on hunger strikes. In 1913 she left the WSPU and the following year her objections to World War I stood in sharp contrast to the supporting views of Emmeline and Christabel. Her publications include The Suffragette (1911), Writ on a Cold Slate, a collection of poems (1922), The Suffragette Movement: An Intimate Account of Persons and Ideas (1931), The Home Front (1932), The Ljfe of Emmeline Pankhurst: The Suffragette Struggle for Women's Citizenship and Myself When Young (1938). Her campaign for independence for Ethiopia was championed in her book Ethiopia: A Cultural History (1955). Sylvia's art was subsumed by her political life but in 1908 she did produce a set of paintings that were reproduced in the London Magazine under the heading Women Workers of England, depicting shoemakers, Scottish fishwives, cotton workers and 'pit-brow lasses'.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 479

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1907back to top

Current affairs

Robert Baden Powell, a former lieutenant-general in the British Army, forms the Boy Scout Movement after holding a camp on Brownsea Island for a group of twenty-two boys of mixed social background. Baden Powell was inspired after finding that his 1903 military training manual Aids to Scouting had become a bestseller, and was being used by teachers and youth workers. The Scout movement has become a Worldwide phenomenon, with over 38 million members in 216 countries.

Art and science

The poet, author and critic Edmund Gosse publishes his autobiography Father and Son, an account of his relationship with his devout Christian father, the zoologist Phillip Gosse. Edmund's detailing of his loss of faith is a reflection on the Victorian age itself.
Anna Pavlova first dances The Dying Swan, choreographed by Michel Fokine to music by Camille Saint-Saens, at a charity performance.

International

America is gripped by a financial crisis as a collapse of trust companies causes panic amongst shareholders.
Aged twenty, the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century architecture, designs his first house at La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland.

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