New Tony Blair artwork at National Portrait Gallery

The commissioned portrait of Tony Blair by Alastair Adams presents the forthright demeanour of Britain’s former prime minister.

January 3, 2014
by Nicholas Judge
Alastair Adams, Tony Blair, oil on board, 48 1/8 in. x 36 1/4 in. (1221 mm x 920 mm), 2013

Image: Alistair Adams. Copyright: National Portrait Gallery.

The first painting owned by the National Portrait Gallery of Labour‘s youngest prime minister, Tony Blair has been unveiled.

The painting joins a number of photographic portraits of Mr Blair in the Gallery.

Alastair Adams, president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, was given the rare opportunity of painting the portrait at the former Labour leader’s Buckinghamshire home. Mr Blair, who is know for declining official portrait offers, sat for the artist on several occasions in 2011.

The four by three feet oil painting portrays Mr Blair staring straight toward the viewer.

Sarah Howgate, contemporary curator of the NPG, said: “The direct gaze of the sitter is uncompromising but also reflects his considerable skills as a negotiator on the world stage.

“The gallery is now able to represent Tony Blair with a portrait consonant with the personality of an individual who has considerably shaped the political, economic and cultural climate of Britain.”

Mr Blair came to power in 1997 and led the Labour party to win a further two general elections, making him Labour’s longest serving prime minister.

In the ten years he was PM, the country saw the introduction of the National Minimum wage, passing of the Human Rights and Freedom of Information Acts, and Devolution of power to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

But the former prime minister’s legacy has been overshadowed by his decision to engage Britain in armed conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since leaving office in 2007 Blair has become a Middle East Envoy.

Adams’ portrait brings the NPG closer to fulfilling its wish to obtain portraits of all previous British prime ministers. The gallery have still to acquire a portrait of Gordon Brown for their collection.