Edmund Burke (1729-97) politician and author
About the work
Interpretation about this artwork is under review
The Government Art Collection recognises its responsibility to artists, colleagues and all our audiences to represent the diversity of the UK and to embed anti-racist and equitable practices throughout our work. We are taking action to address inequality in the Collection and its interpretation.This painting, showing a half length-portrait of Edmund Burke, is a copy by William A. Menzies after Joshua Reynolds’ original, currently in a private collection. Burke and Reynolds had numerous appointments and Burke’s name occurs in Reynold’s Pocket Books multiple times. The original portrait was painted in 1767-69 and a payment for 35 gns is recorded on 28 November 1767.Other copies of the original are in the National Portrait Gallery and in other private collections.The statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke spoke regularly in the House of Commons on colonial issues. He was a strong critic of Britain's policy on America and his speech On Conciliation with America was published in 1775; 'Reflect how you are to govern a people who think they ought to be free and think they are not'. He was also a force behind the much-needed reform of the corrupt East India Company and in 1788 he opened the trial of Warren Hastings, the Governor-General of Bengal, with a speech of inspired eloquence.
About the artist
Joshua Reynolds was the dominant artistic personality during the age of George III. He was born in Plympton, Devon. From 1750 to 1752 he studied the work of the Old Masters in Rome. Reynolds returned via Florence and Paris, and settled in London in 1753. In 1759 he painted a portrait of the future king, George, Prince of Wales (Royal Collection). After George’s accession the following year, Reynolds was dismayed to learn that Allan Ramsay had been made Principal Painter to the King. This marked the beginning of increasing hostility between Reynolds and the King. Nonetheless, by 1760 Reynolds had established himself as the leading portraitist. He became President of the Royal Academy in 1768 and was knighted the following year.