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William Wilberforce

4 of 102 portraits by John Russell

William Wilberforce, by John Russell, 1770 - NPG 759 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

William Wilberforce

by John Russell
oil on canvas, 1770
11 1/4 in. x 9 1/2 in. (286 mm x 241 mm)
Bequeathed by the sitter's son-in-law, John James, 1887
Primary Collection
NPG 759


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Sitterback to top

  • William Wilberforce (1759-1833), Philanthropist and reformer. Sitter associated with 31 portraits.

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  • John Russell (1745-1806), Portrait painter and pastellist. Artist associated with 102 portraits, Sitter associated with 6 portraits.

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William Wilberforce, the friend of William Pitt the Younger and an MP, (1780-1825), was a philanthropist and social reformer. For many years he led the campaign for the abolition of slavery and his bill ending slavery in the British colonies became law in 1807. A devout Christian, he helped to found the Church Missionary Society and the Bible Society. This portrait of Wilberforce at eleven years old wearing 'Van Dyck' costume was painted in his aunt's house in Wimbledon. The artist John Russell described him as 'sweet young Wilberforce' and said that even at this early age he had the 'appearance of conversion upon his soul'.

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