A New Demand for Art

The social background of ministers and ambassadors began to change after the First World War. Few had access to personal art collections and the subsequent lack of art and need for more of it in embassy buildings, became increasingly acknowledged.

interior room showing a family dining

Interior of the British Ambassador’s Residence (Mission House), Lisbon, c. early 1900s © Crown Copyright

Holders of government posts would furnish their official residences with art from their personal collections – Sir Robert Walpole, effectively England’s first Prime Minister, brought his art collection to 10 Downing Street when he took up residency in the 1730s. By the early 20th century, though, the social backgrounds of people being appointed into government posts had begun to change. Most appointees no longer had access to art collections of their own.

portrait of a man

Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford (1676-1745) Prime Minister, by Jean Baptiste van Loo (Studio) – oil painting © image: Crown Copyright