Historical Portraits Picture Archive

The Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone PM (1809 - 1898) 1889

Henry Jermyn Brooks 

The Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone PM (1809 -  1898), Henry Jermyn Brooks
Oil on canvas
19th Century
8 x 5 7/8 inches 20.3 x 14.9 cm
The Studio vol.31 p.151 Christopher Wood The Dictionary of Victorian Painters Antiques Collectors'' Club 1989 p.62
Graves Gallery 1904
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''This portrait of the Right Hon. W.E. Gladstone M.P. was taken from life at 16 James St. Burlington Gate. Mr Gladstone placed his autograph on the back of the canvas on Friday the 29th March 1889.'' (Accompanying note)

This portrait of Gladstone is unusual in its size and in its lack of monumentality. Unlike more familiar images, such as that of Millais (Christ Church Oxford) painted four years previously, in which the sitter is invested with an distinctly numinous aura, the smaller scale permits an unprecedented intimacy. There is also a more immediate sense of the Prime Minister's personality than in larger and grander works, a testament to the painter''s particular talents.

Henry Jermyn Brooks was a portraitist whose practice by 1904 had grown to embrace King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. At an exhibition at the Graves gallery in that year the present portrait was singled out among these more formal portrayals for particular praise: ''Perhaps the best thing in the room of eleven paintings is the portrait of Gladstone. It is very small, but the sensitive handling gives it a distinction lacking in some of the larger paintings.'' (The Studio vol.31 p.151)

It is possible that the greater eases suggested in this portrait was as much real as implied, as this painting was executed during a period of Opposition, after the Conservative victory in the General Election of July 20th 1886. In 1888 the Gladstone's celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary, and so this portrait may be associated as much with domestic content as with the demands of high office.
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