Now, though, 30 English students from Priestley College have breathed new life into the characters seen in a series of paintings included in an exhibition at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery.
Every Picture Tells a Story features the portraits and alongside words crafted by the creative minds on Priestley’s English A-Level courses.
Former Lymm High School pupil Sophie Thomas was among those who provided a backstory and told her character’s ‘life’ through tweets.
“My inspiration was really my friends and what we would usually post on social networking,” said Sophie.
“I found that it was a quite difficult trying to make sure that it was modern while at the same time keeping the elements from 400 years ago; but it was a really enjoyable challenge.”
Warrington Museum & Art Gallery’s exhibition – which runs until March 21 – features very different portraits that span 400 years. All of them depict persons unknown giving people a blank canvas on which to create their own stories.
“We have quite a few portraits in the collection where we don’t know who the person in the portrait is. We thought it would be fun to give people the chance to come up with identities for these people,” said exhibition manager Derek Dick.
Priestley’s students – who all study AS Creative Writing, English Literature or Creative Writing as an enrichment – used poems or stories, CVs and even tweets to provide some words for the pictures.
Jennie Atherton, who formerly attended St Peter and Paul RC College, chose to write about a man whose face appears distorted. Her poem begins: Are you judging me? Who are you to look at me? You do not know me.
Tom Conolly, Creative Writing tutor, said: “This was a great chance to make links between academic study and the world beyond Priestley. As part of the creative writing course we try to provide platforms for students’ work to reach a wider audience and be valued, which this has done perfectly.”