Iconic painting of Jamaican nurse will feature at Wolverhampton Literature Festival

Little is known of Nurse Brown, who is the subject in the 1956 portrait

CELEBRATED PORTRAIT: Artist Joy Baines and Jefny Ashcroft admire the painting of Nurse Brown

A HISTORICAL painting titled Nurse Brown from Jamaica by Birmingham-based artist, Irene Welburn, will be the featured subject at the fourth annual Wolverhampton Literature Festival from Friday, January 31 to Sunday February 2.

Little is known of who Nurse Brown is in the 1956 painting by the white artist Irene Welburn and the portrait’s young black subject may be the painter’s friend. The painting has thrown up many questions like, ‘Is Nurse Brown still alive? Where did she work? Is the gesture she is so clearly making, a Rastafarian symbol?’

Wolverhampton writer and historian, Jefny Ashcroft, feels this picture deserves to be better known, especially now the Windrush generation’s importance is finally being appreciated.

Ashcroft said: “The artist, Irene Welburn, was white and trained in Birmingham and was a member of the Royal Birmingham School of Artists.  She may have been a friend of Nurse Brown or possibly a grateful patient? We just don’t know.”

For the Literature Festival presentation Ashcroft will be joined by local artist Joy Baines who feels that the painting is iconic because it would be rare for someone like Nurse Brown to have sat for a serious, good quality portrait like this in 1950’s Britain.

In the interactive sessions Ashcroft and Baines will be talking briefly on the little they know about the artist and the painting before asking the audiences to enjoy the picture and then tell them what they think about this enigmatic work. Does anybody know Nurse Brown or anything about her life? What is the striking gesture that she is making with her hands? Could it be that she was a Rastafarian and wanted people to know that?

The presentation of the painting will be in the Victorian Room, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Litchfield Street, WV1 1DU on Friday January 31 at 1.00 -1.30 PM, Saturday February 1 at 1.00 -1.30 PM and Sunday February 2 at 3.00 to 3.30 PM. Entry is free.

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