The Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art have added a bronze bust of the Rt Hon Jeremy Thorpe to the House of Commons Art Collection. As no portrait of Jeremy Thorpe was held in the Collection the Committee approached the Thorpe family who generously allowed a cast to be made from a bust in their possession by the artist Avril Vellacott.
Hugo Swire MP, Chairman of the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art said:
"We are delighted that Jeremy Thorpe will now be represented in the Collection. As the Leader of the Liberal Party, he combined youthful exuberance with a brilliant mind and made a significant contribution to British politics during the turbulent years of the 1960s and 70s. We added portraits busts of Harold Wilson and Ted Heath some time ago, so it is entirely right that Jeremy Thorpe should now take his place in history beside them. The bust will also be placed in the Grimmond Room which we think is entirely appropriate"
The Rt Hon Jeremy Thorpe (b 1929) was educated at Eton and later studied law at Trinity College, Oxford. In 1954 he was called to the Bar and in 1959 began his Parliamentary career as Member for North Devon, a seat which he held for twenty years. Following Jo Grimond's resignation in 1967 he became the Leader of the Liberal party at the age of 38. He led the party for nine years, succeeding in steadily building up the Liberal vote. After the vote reached 19 percent at the 1974 general election, Thorpe was invited to coalition talks with the Prime Minister, Edward Heath. Two years later, in 1976, he resigned as leader amid allegations of conspiracy in the shooting of Norman Scott. Despite being fully acquitted of these charges in 1979, he had by then lost his seat.
The artist- Avril Vellacott
The artist, Avril Vellacott, trained at the City and Guilds of London School of Art, taking the Sculpture Prize for her year, and previously Kingston School of Art. She has worked as a sculptor for many years mostly in the field of figurative and portrait sculpture specializing in terracotta portraits and has exhibited at the Royal West of England, Dartington Hall and the Society of Portrait Sculptors at the Mall Galleries.
"I found Jeremy Thorpe an excellent sitter; he had the ideal face for portrait sculpture because of his fine bone structure. He sat for me in his office at the Commons, and as I worked I was amused by the regular, and strident, interruptions from Big Ben. It was a great honour for me to be asked to sculpt him. As my local Member of Parliament for North Devon and as Leader of the Liberal Party he was greatly respected. I feel similarly honoured now that this piece joins the Parliamentary Art Collection."
The bust will be put on permanent display in the Grimond Room, Portcullis House.