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Painted ladies and gents

Painted ladies and gents – live art and costume parades inspired by the National Gallery collection

Issued: April 2009 

‘Fashion is only the attempt to realise art in living forms’ Sir Francis Bacon

Princes, showgirls, painted ladies and dazzling gentlemen will descend on central London this spring to take part in a series of live art events and costume parades through Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.

Models wearing costumes designed and interpreted by students from Wimbledon College of Art – and inspired by paintings in the National Gallery Collection – will perform outside the Gallery on 1 May between 5.30pm and 6pm (weather permitting).

After the parade outside, the Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing Theatre stage will become a catwalk for a special free show entitled The Prince and the Showgirl. Here, the costume designers and makers will talk the public through their creations. Highlights in the show will include costumes inspired by Van Gogh’s 'Sunflowers', Botticelli’s 'Venus and Mars', Velázquez’s 'Philip IV of Spain' and Turner’s 'Fighting Temeraire'.

Between 7.30pm and 8.30pm the models will then parade on a set route around the Gallery before striking a pose in front of the individual paintings used by the designers as their inspiration.

Three more events with live art and costumes created by students from Wimbledon College of Art will take place in May as part of Friday Lates programming at the Gallery.

On 8 May models will appear on stage in the Sainsbury Wing and next to some of the paintings that inspired the designs in a show called Transfigurations. Costumes making their catwalk debut will include those inspired by Delaroche’s 'The Execution of Lady Jane Grey' and Degas’s 'Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando'.

On 22 May a parade entitled Everyman, based on characters from the classic morality play and inspired by National Gallery pictures, will take place. Paintings used as a starting point for these particular costumes include Holbein’s 'Ambassadors' and Picasso’s 'Child with a Dove'.

Finally on 29 May, models will parade through the Gallery in costumes bringing 17th- and 18th-century paintings to life in Stepping Out of the Frame.

All 70 of the participating designers attend costume ‘pathways’ at Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts London. Show one’s costumes have been made by Wimbledon’s third-year Costume Interpretation students, show two’s by third-year Costume Design students, show three’s by second-year Costume Design students and show four’s by second-year Costume Interpretation students.

The participants have been designing and preparing the costumes since September 2008 and have utilised a wide selection of modern materials and techniques to make their unique creations, including dyes, paints, satins, corsetry and paper layering.

The National Gallery’s Head of Education, Colin Wiggins, said:

"These fantastic shows will demonstrate how the National Gallery’s collection has the potential for inspiring individual creativity.

"The show will make the paintings from the National Gallery’s collection jump out of the frame and come alive on the catwalk.

"The Gallery is always looking to develop and extend its programmes as we believe that everyone has the capacity to understand, enjoy and be stimulated by the great paintings in its collection, and we wish to help people who are not regular visitors to discover this for themselves."

The Wimbledon College of Art Costume Pathway Leader, Hilary Baxter, said:

"This has been a wonderful opportunity to show the different ways in which our students are currently using paintings from this major collection to make new and exciting costume work.

"The learning experience has been enormously enriched by this special project and we are looking forward to sharing the finished costumes with the Gallery and the public."

Photo opportunity

Models in their costumes will parade outside the National Gallery from 5.30pm to 6pm on 1, 8, 22 and 29 May

Between 7.45pm and 8.15pm models and costume makers will parade through the Gallery before posing in front of individual paintings
Event details

Costume Parade: Students from Wimbledon College of Art bring paintings to life

5.30pm, outside the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
6.30pm, Sainsbury Wing Theatre

1, 8, 22 and 29 May
(with British Sign Language interpretation on 29 May)
Admission free

For more information 0207 747 2885/

For further press information please contact:

The National Gallery
Nicola Jeffs on 020 7747 2532 or at

Notes to Editors

The National Gallery

The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of Western European paintings from the late thirteenth to the early twentieth century. No other collection possesses such consistent quality, nor better tells the story of Western European painting.

The collection belongs to the nation and serves a diverse public from the UK and overseas. It is open to all, 361 days of the year, free of charge. Between 4 and 5 million people visit the National Gallery each year. Almost all of the 2,300 paintings in the National Gallery’s collection are on permanent display. The collection represents the greatest Western European painters including van Eyck, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Turner, Rembrandt, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Rubens, Velázquez, Van Dyck, Titian and Bellini. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection and provide the best possible access to visitors.

The National Gallery Education Department was set up about 30 years ago and the Education programmes are designed to show how the National Gallery’s collection has the potential for inspiring individual creativity. The National Gallery has a responsibility to everyone, not just those who already understand how to enjoy the collection.

About University of the Arts London

University of the Arts London is a vibrant world centre for innovation in art, design, fashion, communication and performing arts. The University is a unique creative community that draws together six distinctive and distinguished colleges: Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion and Wimbledon College of Art. Proudly associated with some of the most original thinkers and practitioners in the arts, Arts London continues to innovate, challenge convention and nurture exceptional talent. For more information go to

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