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Three former Prime Ministers honoured by new additions to House of Commons Works of Art Collection - UK Parliament

Three former Prime Ministers honoured by new additions to House of Commons Works of Art Collection

Hugo Swire MP and the Speaker at the PM bust unveiling

After much detective work, The Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art has succeeded in filling these gaps, thereby completing this important part of the Parliamentary Art Collection. The missing PMs were: Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836-1908), Prime Minister 1905-1908, Andrew Bonar Law (1858-1923), Prime Minister from 1922-1923, and Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), Prime Minister 1937-1940.

In Member's Lobby, by the doors to the Debating Chamber, is a collection of statues and portrait busts of those who served the Nation as Prime Minister during the 20th century. In recent years Baroness Thatcher and Sir John Major have been added, but until now there were three historic gaps in the series.

Chairman of The Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art -Hugo Swire MP said;

"Completing this series of those who served the country as Prime Minister has always been one of my Committee's priorities, and we embarked on an extensive search for suitable portrait busts to either borrow, copy or acquire. Campbell- Bannerman was a particular challenge for us and sculptor Martin Jennings has succeeded in creating a striking new portrait head. He worked from the limited representations available, which ironically included a large sculpture in Westminster Abbey commissioned by Parliament many years ago. We are delighted that Birmingham has agreed to loan the House this portrait bust of Neville Chamberlain, although eventually it is our intention that Parliament should acquire its own version. As for Andrew Bonar Law, after much research Ashridge College came valiantly to our rescue by allowing a bronze cast to be made from their portrait bust. There is of course one PM belonging to both the 20th and 21st centuries who is also missing from the Lobby. We have approached him to sit for a bust, which we hope he will do soon."

The Bonar Law commemorative bust was discovered at Ashridge College in Hertfordshire who generously allowed a bronze cast copy to be made for the Works of Art Collection. The Campbell-Bannerman bust is a new and original work by artist Martin Jennings, based on existing photographs and sculptures, one of which is a bust in Westminster Abbey by Paul Raphael Montford, which was commissioned by the House of Commons following Bannerman's death in 1908. The bust of Chamberlain, by Lady Kathleen Kennett, is kindly on loan from Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.

The artist-Martin Jennings said;

"In 1913 Herbert Asquith was motoring with his wife in an open-topped car towards Stirling to unveil a statue of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman when they were set upon by suffragettes who, in the words of the next day's press report "besprinkled (them) with pepper" and even "plied whips". It is not clear to what extent their ire concerned the unveiling of the statue but looking at the few existing photographs of Campbell-Bannerman, it seems hard to imagine how such anger could have been aroused by so kindly a face. He seems shrewd admittedly, but hardly careworn in the manner of today's leaders. In making this portrait I was interested in bringing out the story these photos told - of an open-faced, smiling, avuncular figure from an age in which, for better or worse, politicians were not constantly under the microscope. Like him they could even sometimes look contented, fulfilled and happy with their lot."