Eleanor Rathbone at the National Portrait Gallery


Eleanor Rathbone by James Gunn, 1933. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

This magnificent portrait of Eleanor, painted by the celebrated portraitist, James Gunn, has been rehung in the NPG, and can be found on the first floor in Room 31 . A stunning location for one of the twentieth century’s greatest parliamentarians and humanitarian activists. The idea of the portrait was conceived by her friends, Oliver Lodge, H.J.W. Hetherington, Eva Hubback and L.M.Mott , and colleagues from every part of her life pledged their support. Eleanor was then asked for permission to gather contributions and to select an artist. Her response was ‘I do not believe that I belong to the small class of persons who justify public portraits,’ adding that it was a frivolous venture when times were hard, and anyway, where was it to go? After all, she said, ‘A spinster does not want to gaze on her own portrait in her own home.’  The subscription list was opened in May 1932, and before long £200 had been collected. The published list of contributors numbered more than 270 names,  most of whom were from the provinces. Not surprisingly, 80 per cent of those who donated were women,  the majority of them spinsters like Eleanor. Her fellow  female parliamentarians were very supportive, as were Liverpool’s philanthropists, in fact anyone who held her in high esteem and valued her contribution to society.

There are two other versions of this portrait, one by Julian Barrow in the Parliamentary Art Collection at the House of Commons, the other by Reginald Henry Lewis at Somerville College, Oxford.



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One response to “Eleanor Rathbone at the National Portrait Gallery

  1. Pingback: Eleanor Rathbone at the National Portrait Gallery | Remembering Eleanor Rathbone

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