A portrait of The Rt Hon Neville Chamberlain by the artist, Sir William Orpen, has been acquired for the House of Commons by the Advisory Committee on Works of Art, funded by the Speaker's Art Fund. The painting is currently on display in Portcullis House.
Neville Chamberlain entered Parliament in 1918, as Conservative MP for Birmingham, Ladywood. He served as Postmaster General, Minister of Health and Chancellor of the Exchequer in quick succession from 1922-24. In 1933, he was again appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, before succeeding Stanley Baldwin as Prime Minister in 1937.
With war brewing in Europe, Chamberlain sought a peaceful solution. After meeting the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, in 1938, Chamberlain famously declared "Peace for our time", but it was to be short-lived as Hitler occupied Prague the following year. The invasion of Poland made Chamberlain's policy of appeasement impossible and on 3 September 1939, he declared war. Following Germany's invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France, he resigned in 1940, dying six months later.
The artist - Sir William Orpen
Sir William Orpen enjoyed a long and celebrated career. He was appointed official British war artist in World War One and in 1919 he was appointed official artist to the British Peace Delegation, from which he produced the large and very traditional group portrait, 'The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, 28th June 1919'. Orpen also painted politicians, financiers and industrialists of the time, including Churchill and Lloyd-George.
This portrait of Neville Chamberlain was painted before the General Election in 1929 and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in June 1933.
Works of Art Committee
A key objective of the Works of Art Committee is to fill gaps in the Parliamentary Art Collection by acquiring portraits of important politicians who are currently not represented. Chamberlain was one of the few Prime Ministers not to feature and this is therefore a very significant acquisition for the House. It is also the only work by this well-known artist owned by the House of Commons.