The portrait has been commissioned by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, chaired by Frank Doran MP.
Frank Doran MP said:
"The Committee was unanimous that Margaret should be represented in the House’s Collection. She has had a long and very distinguished parliamentary career over many years. We endeavour to find portrait painters who are a good match for sitters and Antony Williams has proved the perfect choice. His consummate skills are clear for all to see and this is a very significant addition to our Contemporary Collection in Portcullis House."
Margaret Beckett said:
"I felt it would be best if the portrait showed me in one of the familiar wood panelled interiors of the main House of Commons building where I have had the privilege of working for so many years. It’s quite an experience sitting for a portrait. I don’t think I have ever been so still for such long periods!"
The artist Antony Williams took over a year to complete the portrait, which is painted in egg tempera on panel. His work, including his 1996 portrait of the Queen, is based on direct and intense observation.
The artist said:
"I wanted to achieve a heightened sense of realism where every surface detail in the painting was given almost equal consideration. It is a painstaking and exacting medium which allows me to express a deep feeling about the look of the world."
Margaret Beckett’s Parliamentary career began in 1974 when she was elected Member of Parliament for Lincoln. She served in as a Whip and then as parliamentary under secretary of State in the government of Harold Wilson and then of Jim Callaghan.
Although she lost her seat in 1979, she was returned to the House of Commons in 1983 going on to become a senior member of the Labour Party. Following the sudden death of John Smith she was chosen to be Leader of the Labour Party, the first woman to do so.
After the 1997 general election, she became a member of the Cabinet. She was made President of the Board of Trade, the first woman to hold the post. She served as Leader of the House of Commons from 1998 and after the 2001 General Election became Secretary of State at the new Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
In 2006, she was appointed British Foreign Secretary, again the first woman to hold the position, and, after Margaret Thatcher, the second woman to hold one of the Great Offices of State.
She is currently the Member of Parliament for Derby South and Chair of the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy.
Detail from portrait of Rt. Hon Margaret Beckett MP by Antony Williams, 2011, WOA 7203.
Image: Palace of Westminster Collection