Visionaries: 32 Portraits on a Guide Dog

March 25, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Today sees the launch of Paws on the Wharf, an accessible and inclusive art trail in Canary Wharf, London: 25 Guide Dogs with a difference. From 25th March until 17th May, you can visit the whole collection of supersized Guide Dog statues, each with a ‘tail’ to tell. Five of the designs feature artwork by artists with sight loss including Angela Charles, Alex Devlin, Kevin Gavaghan, Sian Healey and Clarke Reynolds.

Loïs Cordelia's design is called Visionaries and depicts 32* painterly, tactile portraits of famous people, past and present, who have or had vision impairments. Some were born blind/visually impaired, others became so early in life, and some much later. A full list of the portraits featured is included in this blog post. This short film (5 minutes 41 seconds) captures behind-the-scenes work in progress on the design.

* I noticed after publishing the video and blog post that there are in fact 33 portraits, as I'd completedly missed Judi Dench off the list - apologies! Numbers are not my strongest point :-) LC, March 2024

Each Guide Dog statue is painted by an artist in vibrant, unique designs with themes relating to:

  • vision and sight loss,
  • enlivening the senses,
  • dogs,
  • independence,
  • diversity,
  • equity and inclusion, and
  • Canary Wharf.

Following the trail, the sculptures will be auctioned on 5th June to raise funds for Guide Dogs.

The online trail map is now live:
Find Loïs's Visionaries statue at Crossrail Place, Canary Wharf, down the lift/escaltor, next to M&S, Level 3.


Full list of 32 Portraits

Judith E. Heumann

American disability rights activist – the “Mother of the Disability Rights Movement”. She died in 2023, at the age of 75. She fought to become the first wheelchair user to teach in New York City public schools.

Dr Abraham Nemeth

American mathematician who developed the Nemeth Braille system for reading and writing mathematics.

Wilma Pearl Mankiller

Indigenous American (Cherokee Nation) activist, social worker, community developer and the first woman elected to serve as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Claude Monet

French painter and founder of the Impressionist movement.

Stevie Wonder

American singer-songwriter and musician.

Alec Templeton

Welsh composer, pianist, and satirist.

Ronnie Lee Mislap

American country music singer and pianist. He was born blind as the result of congenital glaucoma. His condition caused his mother to shun him because she thought his blindness was a punishment from God. After his parents divorced, he was raised by his grandparents.

Susan Townsend

English writer and humourist. She was registered blind, having lost most of her sight through diabetic retinopathy.

Joseph Pulitzer

Hungarian American politician (Democrat) and newspaper publisher. Namesake and beneficiary for the Pulitzer Prizes established in 1917 as a result of his endowment to Columbia University.

Leonhard Euler

Swiss mathematician and physicist. Euler's eyesight worsened throughout his mathematical career, and he became almost blind in his right eye.

William Samuel McTell

American piedmont blues and ragtime singer and guitarist. He was known as ‘Blind Willie McTell’ (Bob Dylan wrote a song of that title).

Helen Keller

American author, disability rights advocate and political activist.

Ray Charles

American singer-songwriter and pianist. He lost his sight in early childhood.

Jorge Luis Borges

Argentine short storywriter and essayist. He became blind in his early middle age.

Hariet Tubman

American abolitionist and social activist.

Andrea Boccelli

Italian tenor. He was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma at a young age. Doctors managed to save about 10 percent of the sight in one eye but, aged 12, he had a football accident and suffered a brain
haemorrhage, and as a result completely lost his sight in both eyes.

Marla Runyan

American track and field athlete, Olympian, and Paralympian. Aged nine, she learned that she had Stargardt disease, an inherited form of macular degeneration causing central vision loss.

Louis Braille

French educator and inventor of the Braille reading and writing system. He was blinded aged three as the result of an accident.

Rahsan Roland Kirk

American multi-instrumentalist jazz musician. He became blind at the age of two.

Matilda Ann Aston

Australian writer and teacher. Blind from the age of seven.

James Thurber

American writer, humorist, and cartoonist. At the age of seven he was shot in the eye with an arrow by his brother. He lost that eye and became almost entirely blind.

Frederick Delius

English composer. He contracted syphilis in his 20s and this eventually affected his eyes in the form of optic neuritis, so that he could only distinguish light.


Ancient Greek poet and author of The Iliad and The Odyssey. Little is known about Homer, even whether he was a real person, but some scholars believe he was blind.

Al Hibbler

American baritone and vocalist who played in Duke Ellington’s band.

John Milton

English poet and intellectual. He became blind at the age of 43.

Clarence Carter

American singer-songwriter and musician. He was born blind.

José Montserrate Feliciano García

Puerto Rican musician and singer. He was born blind.

Doc Watson

American guitarist and songwriter. He lost his sight in infancy.

Dr Jacob Bolotin

American doctor and world’s first totally blind physician.

Horatio Nelson

British flag officer in the Royal Navy.

Erik Weihenmayer

American athlete and adventurer. He was the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. At 15 months of age, he was diagnosed with juvenile retinoschisis, and at age 16 he started using a
guide dog.

Galileo Galilei

Italian astronomer and physicist. He became blind in later life.



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