19 May 2023

Portraits of people with connections to Southampton feature in a new exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery on 26 May. Over 40 works from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection, together with paintings from Southampton’s art collections, will display celebrated figures who have links to the City. The show will feature Jane Austen, Craig David, Spitfire designer R.J. Mitchell, Chris Packham, Alan Shearer, Captain of the Titanic Edward John Smith, the City’s first female mayor Lucia Foster Welch, and a recently acquired portrait of the Paralympic athlete Aaron Phipps, born in Totton, Southampton.


Drawing inspiration from both these nationally important collections, art students from Cantell School in Southampton collaborated with Hampshire-based artist Pete Codling to explore portraiture through drawing, using charcoal to capture people they chose to represent the City. Their new portraits will be displayed alongside the collections from both galleries.


In response to the project, Pete Codling created a dramatic large-scale drawing called The Kinship, inspired by the local story of 4,000 child refugees from the Basque country arriving in Southampton on the steamship, SS Habana, in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. The Kinship was created as a response to Pablo Picasso’s famous 1937 painting Guernica. Depicted within the new artwork are pupils from the school – representing the history of Southampton and the future, and reflecting Southampton’s historic role as a place of refuge and Cantell School’s status as a ‘School of Sanctuary’.


A vibrant programme of activities and events will also support the exhibition.  This includes portrait drawing workshops for adults and children led by project artist Pete Codling and regional artists Alys Scott-Hawkins and Jo Bressloff; an Art summer school for 11–16-year-olds; talks from Southampton Archives about some of the figures portrayed in the exhibition and a screening of the film, The Guernica Children.  All these activities will be free thanks to funding via the Creative Connections project.


Creative Connections is a National Portrait Gallery project in partnership with Southampton City Art Gallery which has been underway over the last two years. Creative Connections is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Fund with the generous support of the Palley family.


Leader of the Council, Cllr Satvir Kaur said:

“Southampton City Art Gallery continues to put our creative city on the map, this time with a collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery. An important part of our legacy from Southampton’s UK City of Culture bid as well as our current ambitions to become a UNICEF Child Friendly City, is to inspire future generations. It’s great to work with the National Portrait Gallery, and our own internationally renowned collections, to give students from Cantell School the opportunity to develop new skills and create their own new works. I hope people of all ages and backgrounds, enjoy this exciting and inspiring new exhibition.”

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery said:

“We are delighted to be partnering with Southampton City Art Gallery on Creative Connections as part of our transformational Inspiring People project. By working in collaboration with organisations across the UK we hope to make our portraits accessible to many more people, enabling them to seek out their stories within our Collection.”

Pete Codling, Artist

“Exploring the art of portraiture with Cantell students and how their city is represented has been really inspiring. Their choices for the exhibition have been enlightening, from the humble and heroic to the unsung and most deserving. Their wonderful charcoal selfies and portraits of friends have also reminded me of Pablo Picasso:

“Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up”.”


Harry Kutty, Headteacher, Cantell School

“Creative Connections has been a project that has provided our young people with a fantastic opportunity to work closely with artist Pete Codling and Southampton City Art Gallery, founded by National Portrait Gallery. This has given our  students a platform in which they can exhibit and showcase not only their work, but the links of Southampton and those individuals portrayed, and what it means to them.”



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