This is a head and shoulders portrait of William Ewart Gladstone painted after a photograph taken by the London studio Elliott & Fry in March 1879. Elliot & Fry was a photography studio founded in 1863 by Joseph John Elliot and Clarence Edmund Fry. For a century the firm’s core business was taking and publishing photographs of the Victorian public and social, artistic, scientific and political luminaries.
The photography session with Gladstone was shortly after his first stint as British Prime Minister and just before his second, with him being elected once again in the 1880 general election. The original photograph is now part of the National Portrait Gallery collection. This photograph was then lithographed for ‘The Modern Portrait Gallery’, published by Cassell and Company, London 1885.
A mark on the back of the canvas from the stretcher and panel suppliers Reeves & Sons dates this work between 1879 (after the photograph was taken) and 1886.
William Ewart Gladstone was one of the dominant political figures of the Victorian era and a passionate campaigner on a huge variety of issues, including home rule for Ireland. Gladstone was most well-known for serving for 12 years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, spread over four non-consecutive terms beginning in 1868 and ending in 1894. He held ultra-conservative views and in his earlier career in Parliament he spoke out against the abolition of slavery because his family used slaves on their West Indian plantation.
Gladstone died on 19 May 1898.