Doreen Lawrence by Thomas Ganter
- View larger image
Doreen Lawrence (born 1952) is a social justice and anti-racism Campaigner A person who leads or takes part in a campaign, especially one for social or political change. .
In 1993, her son, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered in a racist knife attack. Her tireless Campaign A series of planned activities that are intended to achieve a particular social, commercial or political aim. for justice for Stephen, and refusal to give up, led to a significant shift in attitudes towards Racism The unfair treatment of people who belong to a different race. and prompted changes to the law and police practice. Today she continues to fight in her son's name for equality and inclusion, and to campaign against hate crime.
Analysing the portrait
- View larger image
Look carefully at the portrait. Take your time – look at it for at least a whole minute. What can you see?
- Doreen Lawrence is sitting, facing forwards with her head turned to the side. She doesn’t look out at us, the viewer, but seems to be looking into the distance.
- Her hands are clasped in front of her. She looks calm and deep in thought.
- Her Pose A particular position in which somebody stands or sits to have their portrait made. and Expression A look on a person's face that shows their thoughts or feelings. convey a sense of strength and dignity.
- Ganter has used oil on canvas for this portrait.
- He used a thin layer of soft, dark yellow paint for the background. This has a Scumbled Where a thin layer of paint has been applied with a dry brush, leaving some of the colour underneath visible. texture and appears loosely painted and Gestural Painting or drawing using sweeping, energetic movements. .
- He has painted Lawrence's figure in great detail, using brushstrokes that are hardly visible to create a smooth surface. This contrasts with the looser, more textured background.
- The colour and Tone A shade of a colour. of the background are similar to the colour and tone used for Lawrence’s face and hands.
- Her face, hands and the band of flowers on her clothes stand out against the plain background of her black clothing.
- The simple shape of her body makes her look powerful and strong, perhaps reflecting her resilience and determination.
- Her black clothes, with only a slight Tonal Relating to shades of colour. change to suggest the form of her arms, emphasise the strong, simple shape of her torso.
- Lawrence’s figure fills most of the composition.
- Ganter has painted the portrait from a slightly low viewpoint, so it seems as if we are looking up at Lawrence. This makes her appear impressive – someone to admire and look up to.
- Her head is placed centrally at the top of the composition. The band of bright flowers on her clothes contrasts with her black clothing and helps to frame and draw attention to her face.
- Lawrence’s clasped hands are placed at the centre towards the bottom of the painting. They match the position of her face, creating a balanced and symmetrical composition.
- The balanced composition underpins the calm, thoughtful quality of the portrait.
- The Mood The emotions that are provoked in the viewer of a piece of art, or the atmosphere expressed by an artwork. of the portrait is serene. There is also a feeling of emotional intensity.
- Ganter’s use of a limited, dark Colour palette A particular range or set of colours used by an artist. – mainly soft browns and black – helps create the painting’s thoughtful, subdued atmosphere. The delicate white and red flowers, along with the earrings and gold bangles, add points of brightness.
- The artist has said, ‘I wanted to highlight the flowers … Flowers can be a sign of hope, like first flowers in spring. They can also be signs of Impermanence The state of not lasting or staying the same forever. because their lifespan is only short.’ They perhaps symbolise the hope and positivity that Lawrence has brought to her campaigning.
Who is Doreen Lawrence?
- Doreen Lawrence was born in Jamaica in 1952. She moved to England at the age of nine.
- In 1993, her son Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist knife attack in southeast London, near where the Lawrence family lived. He was 18 years old.
- Doreen and Neville Lawrence, Stephen’s father, founded the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in 1998 to promote a positive community Legacy The result or impact of events or actions that took place in the past. in their son’s name.
- After years of campaigning by the Lawrence family, the Government set up a public inquiry to investigate the circumstances of Stephen’s death. The report, published in 1999, found that Institutional racism Policies, rules and practices that are part of the way an organisation works and that result in unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race. was a major factor in the Metropolitan Police's failure to convict Stephen’s killers.
- This has been called ‘one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain’. It led to major cultural changes in attitudes to Racism The unfair treatment of people who belong to a different race. , the law and police practice.
- After the inquiry, Doreen Lawrence continued to Campaign A series of planned activities that are intended to achieve a particular social, commercial or political aim. for justice for her son and other victims of racist crime.
- In 2003, she was awarded the OBE Abbreviation of ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire’, an award given by the British king or queen for a special achievement. for services to community relations.
- In 2013, Lawrence was made a member of the House of Lords A part of the UK Parliament, whose members are appointed rather than elected. Its main roles are to make laws, investigate public policy, and hold the government to account. .
- She plays a leading role in the human rights organisation Liberty, is a Patron A prominent person who supports an organisation such as a charity. of the hate crime charity Stop Hate UK and has sat on panels advising both the government and police.
- In 2020, Doreen Lawrence set up the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation. Every year on 22 April, the anniversary of Stephen’s murder, Stephen Lawrence Day commemorates Stephen’s life and raises awareness of racial inequality in the UK and beyond.
Who is Thomas Ganter?
- Thomas Ganter is an artist based in Frankfurt, Germany.
- He won the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious Portrait Award in 2014.
- He has said that, through his work, he wants to ‘emphasise that everyone deserves respect and care’.
- Ganter is inspired by Old Master A skilled and distinguished artist, active between the 1200s and 1600s in Europe. portraits by artists such as Anthony van Dyck, Diego Velázquez and Hans Holbein. His aim is to paint contemporary portraits with the same skill, attention to detail and sense of grandeur that we associate with these historical artists.
Why is this portrait significant?
- This portrait commemorates Doreen Lawrence's tireless Campaign A series of planned activities that are intended to achieve a particular social, commercial or political aim. for racial and social justice.
- It was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to mark the 30th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s death.
- It is the first painting of a Black, female member of the House of Lords A part of the UK Parliament, whose members are appointed rather than elected. Its main roles are to make laws, investigate public policy, and hold the government to account. to enter the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection.
- What is your impression of Doreen Lawrence from this portrait?
- Do you think the artist achieved his aim of painting with attention to detail and a sense of grandeur, like the Old Masters who inspired him? Why?
- Does Lawrence’s campaigning work or her portrait inspire you or your own art work in any way? How?