A newly commissioned portrait bust of Charles Bradlaugh MP (1833-91) was unveiled yesterday in Portcullis House.
Sculpted by Suzie Zamit, the bronze bust was donated to the House of Commons by the National Secular Society, which Bradlaugh founded in 1866 (150 years ago this year).
Because of Bradlaugh’s significance as a parliamentarian, the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art has sought to represent him in the Parliamentary Art Collection since the Committee’s founding in 1956.
The bust will now be placed on display in a public location in the Palace of Westminster.
Charles Bradlaugh was first elected to the House of Commons in 1880 for Northampton. He attempted to take his seat in the Commons on several occasions, but was prevented from taking the Oath of Allegiance because of his well-known atheism. One attempt led the Serjeant-at-Arms to imprison him temporarily in a cell in the Clock Tower.
Each of Bradlaugh’s failed attempts to take his seat led to a by-election in which he was re-elected. After six years, and having been elected four times, Bradlaugh was finally allowed to sit in the House of Commons. In 1888, his Oaths Act passed as a Private Members Bill, ensuring that MPs had the option to take their seats through a non-religious affirmation.
Suzie Zamit is a leading British portrait sculptor. She studied Fine Art Sculpture at City & Guilds of London Art School and is based in London. A former winner of the Atelier Fine Art Prize, Zamit is a prominent figure in the Society of Portrait Sculptors.
Zamit’s work is in collections throughout Europe, North America and the Far East, as well as the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. She is the fourth woman sculptor to be represented in the House of Commons Collection.
Alison McGovern MP, Chair of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, said:
“We are extremely grateful to the National Secular Society for their generous donation, which has allowed us to fill a long-standing and major gap in the Parliamentary Art Collection. Bradlaugh’s perseverance in the face of opposition, his dedication to principle, and his steadfast determination to represent his constituents drove crucial changes in UK law. I’m sure Suzie Zamit’s artwork will provide inspiration for both parliamentarians and members of the public for many years to come.”
Watch a new series of short films to find out more about this important commission.
Image: (above l-r) Keith Porteous-Wood Executive Director of the National Secular Society, Alison McGovern MP Chair of the Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Terry Sanderson President of the National Secular Society and Suzie Zamit, Sculptor. 'Charles Bradlaugh MP' by Suzie Zamit, bronze, 2016 (WOA S754)