Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Baroness Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister 1983

June Mendoza 

Baroness Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, June Mendoza
Oil on canvas
20th Century
45 x 35 inches 114.3 x 88.9 cm
The artist''s studio until, Purchased by Historical Portraits, 1998
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This portrait of Lady Thatcher was painted in 1983, the year of her second General Election victory and the high water mark of her popularity as leader. Riding on the crest of a post-Falkland ''feel-good factor'', 1983 also found Thatcher locked in battle with the unions and contemplating early privatisation schemes which were further to establish her edificial roll in British political history.

Unlike the majority of portraits of historical figures this picture did not grow out of a specific commission but rather from mutual regard between subject and artist which led to an informal project. In the course of five to six sittings at both Downing Street and Chequers June Mendoza aimed to create a unique painting which powerfully captured the will and temperament of what she saw as a remarkable political leader. Initially, Mendoza claims that she had ''difficulty deciding how to make a pictorial statement''
when dealing with Thatcher as a subject. What began as an exercise in ''interesting composition'' eventually evolved into a carefully themed depiction.1 With neatly folded hands, an expression of intense composure and eyes which directly confront the viewer, Mendoza's work successfully interprets and presents the concept of ''control''. Evoking portraits of Popes, Venetian doges, and rulers by artists such as Titian, Raphael and Velasquez, Mendoza also places her sitter in a throne-like high-backed chair to accentuate hierarchical authority.

Mendoza went on to execute a number of major political works including the famous group painting in 1986 of the House of Commons in Session which included over four hundred separate political portraits. Other commissions have included likenesses of the Queen and the royal family, Corazon Aquino, George Carey, and Sir John Gorton as well as leading figures in the arts such as Yehudi Menuhin, Georg Solti and Joan Sutherland. Recently she painted an acclaimed portrait of John Major which has entered the Palace of Westminster's collection.

1 Letter from June Mendoza to Philip Mould of Historical Portraits Ltd., dated 25 April 1998 with enclosure.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.