March Artwork of the Month: Paddy Ashdown by Anthony Palliser

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02 March 2018

March’s Artwork of the Month, a portrait of Paddy Ashdown by Anthony Palliser, has been chosen to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the founding the Liberal Democrats in March 1988. Ashdown (b.1941) was the first person elected to lead the new party later that year.

The portrait was commissioned by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art in 1995 to record Ashdown in his role as Liberal Democrat leader.

It hangs on public display on the 1st floor of Portcullis House alongside portraits of contemporary leaders of the main political parties and other senior political figures.

These can be seen by visitors to Portcullis House, those attending Committee meetings, and on specialist tours of the contemporary collection. 

The artist, Anthon Palliser (b. 1949), studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and lives and works in Paris. He has painted portraits of many well-known individuals and has works in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery and King's College London.

Paddy Ashdown and the Lib Dems

Before entering politics, Paddy Ashdown (now Lord Ashdown) had a successful career as a Royal Marine and intelligence officer.

After twice standing unsuccessfully, in 1983 Ashdown was elected Liberal Party MP for Yeovil. He supported the Liberal alliance with the Social Democratic Party and soon became the SDP-Liberal spokesperson on Trade and Industry, and then Education, in the House of Commons.

On 3 March 1988 the Liberal Party formally merged with the SDP to form the Social and Liberal Democrats. In July, Ashdown was elected to lead the new party, which a short time later changed its name to the Liberal Democrats (often shortened to the Lib Dems).

He served as leader until standing down in 1999, having overseen an election breakthrough in 1997 when the Lib Dems took their number of seats in the Commons from 18 to 46.

Ashdown stepped down as an MP at the 2001 General Election and entered the House of Lords as Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon in the county of Somerset.

After leaving frontline politics, Ashdown served in a number of international roles, including High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina and UN Representative for Afghanistan.

Today, he remains an active figure in British politics

Further information

Image: Detail of 'Rt Hon. Paddy Ashdown MP' by Anthony Palliser, oil on canvas, 1995 (Parliamentary Art Collection, WOA 4020)

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Works of Art (Speaker's Advisory Committee)

The Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art is appointed by the Speaker to advise on matters relating to works of art in the House of Commons

Works of Art Advisory Panel (Lords)

The Works of Art Advisory Panel considers matters relating to works of art and artistic heritage