Bad Girls: The Gallery
—E. Kline

The Annex Art Gallery includes discussions about a random sampling of background art found in Bad Girls, Series 1-3.

A few of these background reproductions are immediately recognizable, of course, but many are not. That may well be due to gaps in our own art-history background; it may however be because some of the reproductions we have been unable to identify aren't actually by known artists, but rather works 'in the style of'. We're not sure why such choices may have been made: in addition to time-constraints around designing sets, no doubt there are legal issues involved as well—costs involved with types of reproductions for different resale markets, international copyright law, etc.

There may never be a way to identify a lot of these reproductions, much less the choices that went into why certain works were used (more on this below)... but it would be nice to have more information about the process as it played out within Shed's development of the show. If you recognize any pieces not already identified here, or ones we haven't included yet, please drop us a line—the Gallery remains a work in progress!

episode / time



Mark Rothko






tapestry, unknown



Whitechapel exhibit


There will always be back-and-forth about how—and how far—to take any interpretations of these paintings. How much about them was ever even meant to be interpreted at all?—they're 'only' background set dressing. How much of this is down to the set dresser's view of who this character is, as opposed to at-the-specific-suggestion-of... someone else; director of that episode, etc. (i.e. 'That print isn't working here, let's get something with more red and put this one in another scene....')

There are a lot of unknowns that limit how far we can go with any interpretation of these reproductions: some concern external variables. These would include set-dressing of the type discussed above (how much of this is down to a given member of the production team?), and what types of art reproductions are actually available to the team. (Some of the prints in Helen's flat are part of a larger work, like the Bronzino: has that always been a typical practice of the businesses who sell prints, or is it recent—and does that matter, i.e. did the production designer go out and purchase things specifically for certain sets, or did the set-dresser(s) have to use what was to hand?)

There are also differences of opinion within the fandom which bear on certain readings. These would include issues such as: to what extent a viewer includes backstory found within the Bad Girls book as canon (for example, how important is the religious significance of certain paintings given the fact that Helen's father was supposedly a minister, although his profession is never mentioned in the show proper). There's room for latitude in any reading, but it seems best to err on the side of caution.

There's one more unknown: what, if anything, the makers of the show actually intended the background art to suggest about a character (mainly Helen for obvious reasons, hers is one of the only off-prison sets we see with any regularity). Only after considering the wide range of external factors that may have influenced the decision to use a certain reproduction in a given setting can we begin to approach the more purely fictional aspect of the questions such reproductions raise—namely, what the character herself might have thought, when 'choosing' the prints she chose.

With each of the pieces of art examined in this Gallery, we try to consider all of these factors, and then allow ourselves to draw some conclusions about what the art says about the character with whom it's associated.



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