This week has seen the launch of Parliament Week, a national initiative that aims to build greater awareness, understanding of and engagement with parliamentary democracy in the UK. To this end, Artfinder has teamed up with the lovely, forward-thinking folk at Westminster to apply our passion for art to this year’s theme: ‘Stories of Democracy’. After all, what better way to bring “stories” to life than to visualize them? And what better way to visualize “stories” than to delve into the wonderful picture book of history that is the Artfinder database?
And so our participation has been twofold. First and foremost we have developed a richly illustrated, free app for Parliament that is split, simply and accessibly, into three main sections: ‘Stories of Democracy’, ‘Great Parliamentarians’ and ‘Picturing Parliament’.
The section ‘Stories of Democracy’ covers people and events that, over the course of British history, have been the catalyst for positive, democratic change. It features artworks depicting, among others, the signing of the Magna Carta, the English Civil War and the Suffragette campaign. This section, and indeed the following section ‘Great Parliamentarians’, is given context by expertly written captions provided by Dr Paul Seaward, Director at the History of Parliament.
‘Great Parliamentarians’ is perhaps more self-explanatory. It features portraits of significant parliamentarians who are eternalised in the history books for their advocating of freedom and contribution to the fashioning of a democratic society. Featuring paintings from the mid-18th century to more contemporary canvases, this section contains works by artists such as John Everett Millais, Thomas Gainsborough and John Singer Sargent.
The last of these three principal sections is ‘Picturing Parliament’ and, more concerned with artistic and aesthetic merit, acts as a move away from the overtly historical narrative of its predecessors. Put succinctly, it is a collection of artist representations of Westminster that includes pieces by JWM Turner, James Whistler, Claude Monet and Isabel Hutchison, completed by a small, art historical nugget for each work.
For the second part of the Artfinder/Parliament collaboration we asked a number of MPs to embrace our website and curate collections of artworks that illustrate democracy: what it stands for and what it means to them. These collections can be found, neatly collated for your viewing pleasure, here. This link can also be found, in the form of a handy little button, in the top right corner of every page on Artfinder for the duration of Parliament Week.