The only official portrait of former Prime Minister Tony Blair to be painted while he was in power was unveiled on 23 April 2008. Mr Blair sat for artist Phil Hale at Chequers during the run up to his departure from office in June 2007. The painting will hang in the contemporary portrait collection on the first floor of Portcullis House from mid-May.
Full image of Tony Blair portrait
Tony Blair, Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007, became leader of the Labour party in July 1994 following the sudden death of his predecessor, John Smith. The Labour party's landslide victory at the 1997 general election ended 18 years of Conservative Government, and Mr Blair went on to become the party's longest serving Prime Minister, leading Labour to three consecutive general election victories. After stepping down as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007, Mr Blair was appointed by the UN, US, Russia and EU quartet to his current role as Middle East mediator.
Hugo Swire, MP and Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Works of Art, which commissioned the portrait, said:
"This is an authoritative and powerful portrait. It is also a virtuoso piece of painting. It captures Tony Blair during the final months of his premiership, and I believe it is one of the most important additions we have made to our collection of contemporary portraits at the House of Commons in recent years."
The artist - Phil Hale
Phil Hale, one of a group of artists that includes Justin Mortimer, Brendan Kelly and James Lloyd, came to recognition at the National Portrait Gallery's annual portrait show. His work is largely figurative, often confrontational, and emphasises the isolated figure. Mr Hale said his current work "focuses on reconciling the structural integrity of the image, accepting the real power of image with the nature of the paint itself."
On painting the former Prime Minister, Mr Hale said:
"I saw my role as a documentarist, and tried - accordingly - to remain as transparent a presence as possible. Any filtering or shaping would have distorted and devalued the piece; it had a very pure set of demands and limitations.
Mr Blair himself was very accommodating. I was lucky to see him at Chequers, and lucky that he had more pressing concerns than prettifying himself for a picture. I think we were well balanced in that sense. He didn't perform, and I didn't divine."