The paintings in Girton College, Cambridge have been acquired since its foundation in 1869 as the first residential college in England for the higher education of women. For the most part these paintings represent donations and bequests to the College made by alumni and benefactors, although Girton has from time to time commissioned works from distinguished artists, particularly when commemorating its Mistresses (Heads of House) and other distinguished Girtonians.
As might be expected, many oil paintings in the collection are portraits of Mistresses and early benefactors. However we also hold a large collection of the work of Barbara Leigh-Smith Bodichon, a co-founder of Girton, with Emily Davies, and we are fortunate in having received an exceptional bequest of Russian icons, all focusing on the Solovetsky monastery in northern Russia.
The College also houses The People’s Portraits exhibition. This collection of over 40 paintings is on long-term loan from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and all the paintings are in their ownership.
The College is pleased and grateful to be able to participate in this project of cataloguing as many works of art as possible, and so making them accessible to scholars and the general public, for their pleasure, appreciation of our national inheritance, and for the furtherance of learning. It is stressed that the paintings at Girton are not in public ownership. In accordance with the charitable aims of the College, which is a private institution, we are including our paintings on this website to widen public awareness and for the benefit of scholarship. The paintings are hung throughout the College, mainly in private areas. Access to paintings other than the People’s Portraits Exhibition is normally limited to those involved in academic research, although other requests are sympathetically considered wherever possible. Those interested should apply to the Curator.