Meeting a demand for art

The lack of art in embassy buildings was increasingly acknowledged after the First World War, during a period when the background of new ministers and ambassadors rising up through the ranks of Britain’s diplomatic workforce slowly started to change.

interior room showing a family dining

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

In contrast to earlier historical periods when holders of government posts furnished official residences with works of art from their own personal collections – for instance, Sir Robert Walpole, effectively England’s first Prime Minister, who brought his art collection to 10 Downing Street when he took up residency in the 1730s. The changing backgrounds of people who were appointed into government posts by the early 20th century meant that most new occupants did not have access to personal 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