Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of James Ramsay MacDonald PM (1866-1937), 1928 

Ambrose McEvoy (1878-1927)

Portrait of James Ramsay MacDonald PM (1866-1937), 1928, Ambrose McEvoy
Oil on canvas
20th Century
40 x 30 in (102 x 76 cm)
The sitter, Upper Frognal Lodge, Frognal London NW3; By descent.
Dictionary of National Biography
Royal Academy Winter Exhibition 1928 (label verso)
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This portrait of Britain's first Labour Prime Minister was exhibited at the Royal Academy in the Winter Exhibition of 1928, one year after the death of the painter. In the following year Ramsay MacDonald was to begin his second term in office, after his historic first term in 1924. MacDonald was born in 1866, at Lossiemouth in Scotland. His origins in no way presaged his remarkable achievements, although a considerable talent for public speaking overcame his lack of a formal education., he was from very humble beginnings and had no secondary education, but was a rousing speaker. In 1906 he was elected to Parliament as Independent Labour member for Aberavon. Five years later he became leader of the Party, and on the failure of the Baldwin government in 1924, Prime Minister, heading a minority Labour government. This lasted for less than a year, but the novelty of the circumstance was considerable. MacDonald remained leader of his party, and in 1929 he headed a National Government designed to combat the international financial crisis. He remained Party Leader until 1931 and died in 1937.

Ambrose McEvoy was a society portraitist, whose early career began under the tutelage of Whistler and Sickert. During the Great War he was commissioned to paint portraits of naval holders of the Victoria Cross, and by 1920 his reputation was such that he was able to stage a one man show in New York.
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