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Prime Minister William Gladstone is seated at his desk in a panelled room. A classical figurine supported by a small shelf is on the wall beyond him. Gladstone is depicted glancing up; pausing from reading the papers in his hands.
The completion of the original oil painting (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), on which this mezzotint is based, in 1890 (Gladstone’s 81st year) was reported by the ‘Magazine of Art’: ‘A portrait of Mr. Gladstone has just been completed by Mr. Percy Bigland. Both the sitter and Mrs. Gladstone declare it to be the best likeness ever painted of him.’ In the following year ‘The Art Collector’ announced the production of this mezzotint version of the portrait:
‘Mr. Percy Bigland, the young British artist who painted the last portrait of Mr. Gladstone so far reported, has scraped a mezzotint from his painting which is said to be an excellent reproduction of the oil. Mr. Gladstone sits by a table with a paper before him and looks up from his reading.’
Portrait, genre and landscape painter Percy Bigland was born in Birkenhead, the son of a merchant. He was initially educated in Sidcot, Somerset, before studying art in Munich for seven years. Between 1882 and 1925 he exhibited with numerous institutions, both in London and throughout the UK. He moved between addresses in Liverpool, London, Beaconsfield and Buckinghamshire. He visited the US on three occasions and made portraits of several American notables, including Isaac H. Clothier, Elizabeth Powell Bond and William P. Bancroft. However, his most distinguished sitter was Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. Bigland was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1891. He died in Jordans, Buckinghamshire, aged 68.
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