1 of 32 portraits of 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
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Sitterback to top
- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), Philanthropist and reformer. Sitter associated with 32 portraits.
Artistback to top
- John Russell (1745-1806), Portrait painter and pastellist. Artist associated with 102 portraits, Sitter associated with 6 portraits.
This portraitback to top
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'.
Linked publicationsback to top
Events of 1770back to top
Current affairsAugustus FitzRoy, 3rd Duke of Grafton resigns as Prime Minister and is succeeded by Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford.
Art and scienceOliver Goldsmith publishes his poem The Deserted Village.
Philosopher and politician Edmund Burke publishes Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents discussing the limits of the King's authority.
17-year-old Thomas Chatterton, later hailed as a significant poet, commits suicide in a London garret.
Thomas Gainsborough paints his portrait of Jonathan Buttall, which later becomes known as The Blue Boy.
International'Townshend duties' on imports into the colonies are repealed, except for the duty on tea. However, this concession is soon followed by the Boston Massacre, in which British troops fire into an unruly crowd in Boston, killing five.
Captain Cook reaches the eastern coast of Australia, at a place which he names Botany Bay. He discovers the Great Barrier Reef when HMS Endeavour runs onto it. Cook claims New South Wales for the British.