Henny Beaumont portraits of Bibaa Henry and Zobaidah Solange

Male violence against women: this heartbreaking portrait collection lays bare the reality of the issue

After listening to Jess Phillips’ International Women’s Day speech earlier this year, Henny Beaumont decided to start painting the portraits of the women who had been lost to male violence. Now, seven months later, the collection is complete.

During parliament’s International Women’s Day debate in March this year, MPs listened in silence as Jess Phillips read out the names of the 118 women who had been lost to male violence over the last year.

The sixth such address Phillips has delivered since 2016, this year’s names included Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman – the two sisters who were stabbed to death in a brutal attack in London’s Fryent Country Park in June 2020 – as well as the 116 other women who lost their lives to male violence in the year since Phillips’ 2020 speech.

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Listening to such a heartbreaking address, it can often be hard to picture just how substantial a loss every name on Phillips’ list truly represents. So, to try and emphasise the scale of the issue, back in March the artist and illustrator Henny Beaumont set out to paint a portrait of every single woman named on the MP’s list. And now, seven months later, the collection – titled Disappearing Women – is finally complete.

The final result (which is available to view in full on Beaumont’s Instagram and Twitter pages) is an amalgamation of smiling portraits as well as flowers and other symbols to represent those women whose images are not publicly available.  

Balvinder Gahir
Nicole Smallman
Denise Keane Barnett
Rosemary Hill
From left to right: Balvinder Gahir, Nicole Smallman, Denise Kean Barnett and Rosemary Hill.

The names of the women on Phillips’ list and in Beaumont’s work were all provided by the Counting Dead Women project – an organisation founded by Karen Ingala Smith to record deaths of women where a man has been charged or identified as the prime suspect. 

As well as using the portraits to raise awareness of the individuals at the heart of the fight against male violence, Beaumont is also raising money to support the project in the hopes of putting together an exhibition that will enable the women to be “seen and honoured” in a public space, as well as to gift a signed portrait to a friend or family member for every woman pictured. Any spare money that’s left over will go to The Femicide Census and the Centre for Women’s Justice – two charities working to highlight awareness and challenge the epidemic of femicide.

Speaking to Stylist about her work, Beaumont said that the experience of painting the portraits had been “devastating” – especially in light of the fact that a “further 81 women”, including Sarah Everard, have been confirmed dead or killed since Phillips’ address. 

“I will never forget the 118 faces that I’ve painted and the pain of so much unnecessary loss,” Beaumont said. “I hope that my work has helped increase visibility for these women and the issue of the devastating impact of femicide.” 

With the issue of male violence against women continuing to make headlines – just today, the Metropolitan Police has confirmed it is making changes to the way lone officers identity themselves to women in the aftermath of Sarah Everard’s murder – Beaumont’s work lays bare the heartbreaking reality of the problem. 

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Indeed, while paying tribute to the women who have been killed may not stop male violence in its tracks, it does paint a picture of the reality we’re currently facing. We live in a country where one woman is killed by a man every three days – and being able to confront that issue face-to-face is an important reminder of the change that needs to happen.

You can donate to the Disappearing Women fundraiser here.

With the support of more than 60 experts and public figures, Stylist is calling on the government to launch a long-term public awareness campaign about male violence against women – aimed directly at men. Find out more about our call for #AFearlessFuture.  

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Images: Henny Beaumont (hero portraits of Bibaa Henry and Zobiadah Solange).