The Project

Power to Transform is a research project which traces the history of British scenic artists and painted stage cloths from the mid-seventeenth century to the present day.

This project gives a voice to those practitioners whose world is rarely documented. This is achieved through oral histories and by engaging with the process of making; relating it to traditional forms of theatrical painting and exploring the significance of painted scenic art to our cultural heritage.

Image representing an excerpt taken from the 1887 book, The Painters' Encyclopaedia by F B Gardner, showing the glossary definition of 'Scene Painting' as a 'peculiar department of painting, as contradistinguished from all others ..."

This research is conducted by Professor Christina Young at the School of Culture & Creative Arts in the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow.

We gratefully acknowledge the Leverhulme Trust for supporting this project under a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship.


The aim of the project is to highlight and sustain the legacy of scenic artists, their materials and their methods.

Colour photograph showing a close up view of multiple colour paint layers from the studio at Citizens Theatre in Glasgow (credit: Christina Young)
Multiple paint layers in the studio at Citizens Theatre in Glasgow (credit: Christina Young)

This ephemeral art form leaves scare and disparate sources from which to evaluate and integrate into a narrative. This project draws upon extant stage cloths, set designs, sketches, paintings, paint samples, white card models, production files, photographs, film, oral histories, newspaper cuttings & illustrations, playbills, programmes, reviews, memoirs, maps, ephemera, performance spaces, paint frames, production workshops, paint & canvas manufacturers and suppliers.

Learn More

Clips from the oral histories and images of painted stage cloths are presented via this website as the project proceeds. The full oral histories are available for access via this website and also published in a research data repository at DataCite DOI: 10.5525/gla.researchdata.1095. A searchable database will allow you to explore the history of scenic artists. Every two months there will be a Spotlight on one area of the project- so please check back for more insights into the wonderful world of scenic art.

In addition, the project will culminate in a book and an exhibition at The Hunterian.