A PORTRAIT of one of England’s most important religious figures has been placed in storage to make way for a postgraduate student’s art show.

Cardinal John Henry Newman studied at Oxford University’s Trinity College and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

But that did not deter the governing body from removing his portrait, the portraits of two former Prime Ministers, and five other pictures from the walls of the dining hall for a temporary exhibition.

For the next fortnight, the space is being occupied by eight metre-high photos created by Christian Thompson, 34, one of the first Aboriginal Australians to be accepted into Oxford University in the college’s 900-year history.

Estates bursar Kevin Knott liked Mr Thompson’s modern portraits so much that he suggested to the college’s governing body that the hall should be used for an art exhibition for the first time in 450 years.

Mr Knott said: “It’s unprecedented for the old portraits to be taken down in this way.”

Mr Thompson, who lives in North Oxford, said: “I feel so honoured that the college has such faith in my work that it is prepared to break with tradition in this way.

“It’s a real celebration of my work over the past decade.”

The artist, who has also displayed his work at the Pitt Rivers Museum, arrived at Trinity College in 2010 to complete a fine art PhD at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art.

Entry to the exhibition costs £2 per person. For more details, visit the website christianthompson.net.