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.
Dressed in red academic robes, Prime Minister William Gladstone fixes a stern stare on the viewer. He is shown seated in a carved wooden chair within a panelled interior, which may represent a room of No. 10 Downing Street.
Gladstone sat for his first portrait from Millais in 1879. Five separate hour-long sittings were required, after which he noted in his diary that the artist’s ‘ardour and energy about his picture inspire a strong sympathy’. A second Millais painting of Gladstone, painted in 1884-85, is at Eton College, Windsor. This work is a copy of the artist’s third portrait, painted when the sitter was 76 and now in the collection of Christ Church, Oxford. This copy was presented to the Government by Gladstone's private secretaries in 1895.
John Everett Millais studied at the Royal Academy Schools, where he exhibited his first work at the age of 16. While at the Academy he formed lasting friendships with William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Together they founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 and Millais is now widely considered to have been the most accomplished painter of the group. After distancing himself from the Brotherhood to adopt a more popular style, he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1853. From 1860 onwards he produced a succession of works which brought him considerable success and became a fashionable society portraitist. Millais died at the age of 76, just a few months after being appointed President of the Royal Academy.
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