“Statesmen of World War I” by James Guthrie
“Statesmen of World War I” by James Guthrie was commissioned to commemorate Britain’s politicians and statesmen and its allies who held office during the First World War. It is a group portrait of seventeen figures, some seated and some standing.
The subjects are depicted in conference around a table in a large hall, in the shadow of a sculpture of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, with Doric columns to either side and coffered vault above.
Bailey decided that the painting should include British and Dominion civilian leaders in office at the beginning and the end of the First World War. It includes Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, and New Zealand.
The United Kingdom’s leaders included were the Prime Ministers, Foreign Secretaries, Secretaries of War, and First Lords of the ‘s Admiralty, together with two British Conservative and Labour party leaders.
The Maharaja of Bikaner, a member of the Imperial War Cabinet and the Indian delegate to the Versailles Peace Conference, stands to the left next to Louis Botha from South Africa, both in military uniform.
General Kitchener stands in military uniform on the far right, away from the others with his profile in deep shadow. Kitchener died in the sinking of HMS Hampshire in 1916, so this portrait was posthumous.
The individuals depicted are who are seated from left to right, include:
- Sir Joseph Cook, former Prime Minister of Australia (1913–1914), Leader of the Opposition (Australia) (1914–1916)
- Billy Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia (1915–1923)
- David Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer (1908–1915)
- Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount Milner, Secretary of State for War (1918–1919)
- William Massey, Prime Minister of New Zealand (1912–1925)
- Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty (1911–1915), Minister of Munitions (1917–1919)
- Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Foreign Secretary (1905–1916)
- H. H. Asquith, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1908–1916)
The individuals depicted are who are standing from left to right, include:
- Ganga Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner, member of the Imperial War Cabinet
- Louis Botha, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa (1910–1919)
- George Nicoll Barnes, leader of the National Democratic and Labour Party
- Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister of Canada (1911–1920)
- Arthur Balfour, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1902–1905); First Lord of the Admiralty (1915–1916) and Foreign Secretary (1916–1919)
- Sir Eric Campbell Geddes, First Lord of the Admiralty (1917–1919)
- Bonar Law, Leader of the Opposition (United Kingdom) (1911–1915), Secretary of State for the Colonies (1915–1916), Chancellor of the Exchequer (1916–1919)
- Edward Morris, Prime Minister of Newfoundland (1909–1917)
- Herbert Kitchener, Secretary of State for War (1914–1916)
“Statesmen of World War I” is an oil on canvas that measures 156 × 132 inches (400 × 340 cm), which took six years to complete. James Guthrie completed it in 1930, shortly his death.
It was commissioned by a South African financier who also commissioned two other commemorative portraits, “General Officers of World War I” by John Singer Sargent, and “Naval Officers of World War I” by Arthur Stockdale Cope.
Unlike Sargent and Cope’s paintings, which adopt a landscape format to accommodate the many subjects, Guthrie used a portrait format. All three paintings were donated to the National Portrait Gallery.
As preparatory work, Guthrie painted a study of each subject separately, considerably delaying the process. He held sittings in the springs and early summers of 1919 to 1921. Guthrie’s illness delayed the final group portrait.
Guthrie died in 1930 before he could complete the final finishing touches. His 17 oil studies and an oil sketch of the composition were donated to Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Sir Winston Churchill study for the “Statesmen of World War I” group portrait
Sir James Guthrie (1859 – 1930) was a Scottish painter, best known in his own lifetime for his portraiture, although today more generally regarded as a painter of Scottish Realism.
In 1919, Guthrie was commissioned to paint a group portrait of 17 politicians and statesmen of Britain and its allies who held office during the First World War.
The painting, “Statesmen of World War I,” was completed in 1930, shortly before Guthrie’s death. The painting was donated to the National Portrait Gallery, London. Guthrie’s 17 preparatory oil studies were also donated to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Statesmen of World War I
- Title: Statesmen of World War I
- Artist: James Guthrie
- Date: 1924 and 1930
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 396.2 cm (12.9 ft); Width: 335.3 cm (11 ft)
- Category: Popular Portrait Paintings
- Museum: National Portrait Gallery, London
- Name: James Guthrie
- Born: 1859, Greenock, Scotland
- Died: 1930, Rhu, Scotland
- Nationality: Scottish
- Notable Works:
World War I
James Guthrie: A collection of paintings
Virtual Tour of the National Portrait Gallery, London
- “The Chandos Portrait of William Shakespeare” by John Taylor
- Elizabeth I of England
- King Edward VI of England
- Catherine of Aragon
- Self Portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
- “Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts” by John Singer Sargent
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- History Paintings
- Mythological Paintings
- National Portrait Gallery, London
- National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC,
- National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia
- Popular Portrait Paintings
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“Statesmen of World War I” by James Guthrie
The individuals depicted are:
- Ganga Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner
- Louis Botha
- George Nicoll Barnes
- Sir Robert Borden
- Arthur Balfour
- Sir Eric Campbell Geddes
- Andrew Bonar Law
- Edward Morris
- Herbert Kitchener
- Sir Joseph Cook
- Billy Hughes
- David Lloyd George
- Alfred Milner
- William Massey
- Sir Winston Churchill
- Edward Grey
- Herbert Henry Asquith
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
– William Shakespeare
Photo Credit: 1) James Guthrie / Public domain.