Women swept the prizes in 1918. While this may in itself reflect the impact of war, it was not unusual. From the outset the Slade consistently recognized the achievements of female students through the prize system. The exhibition reveals the type of education received at the Slade, its particular ethos and the nature of the prize-system, using the different prizes as case studies to focus on particular artists.
Prizes were awarded annually from the establishment of the school in 1871 in a range of categories such as Life Drawing, Head Drawing, Drapery and Composition. From 1897, winning works were retained, creating an unparalleled collection of art by emerging artists comprising of 45% women artists. Most public art collections are formed through retrospective assessment of an artist’s career and the Slade collection, assembled without the foreknowledge of their future position in the art world, pre-dates by far the trend in the private sector of collecting work by emerging artists.The exhibition reflects this, placing lesser-known artists alongside well-established ones. Gwen John and Winifred Knights appear next to little known multiple prize-winners Alice Smith, Mabel Greenberg and Dorothy Coke.
The diverse programmes developed in collaboration with artists and researchers aim to bring the voices of the forgotten artists into the exhibition space, using life drawing, performance, screenings and talks. This includes The Spirit of Slade Ladies Past on the evening of February 1st, a performance by artist Tai Shani summoning the voices of the women featured in Prize & Prejudiceusing the theatricality of the séance.
Prize & Prejudice is an outcome of a major research project titled Spotlight on the Slade Collections, funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art to increase physical and intellectual access to this important stored collection.