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William Wilberforce

4 of 31 portraits of William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce, by George Richmond, 1833 - NPG 4997 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

William Wilberforce

by George Richmond
watercolour, 1833
17 1/4 in. x 13 in. (438 mm x 330 mm)
Purchased, 1974
Primary Collection
NPG 4997


Click on the links below to find out more:

Sitterback to top

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

Artistback to top

  • George Richmond (1809-1896), Portrait painter and draughtsman; son of Thomas Richmond. Artist associated with 326 portraits, Sitter in 14 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The son of a wealthy Hull merchant, William Wilberforce first entered Parliament in 1780. His conversion to evangelical Christianity five years later deflected him from an orthodox political career, and thereafter he devoted his life to prayer and meditation and to scrupulous attention to his duties in Parliament. He and his associates, known collectively as 'the Saints', had two objectives: the abolition of the slave trade and the reform of contemporary morals. His bill abolishing the slave trade in the British colonies finally became law in 1807. Wilberforce was obliged to wear a brace, or girdle, round his chest and this accounts for his somewhat contorted posture in this portrait. Richmond began the painting at Wilberforce's home on Battersea Rise, south London, in 1832. It was painted while Wilberforce's attention was diverted by the Rev. C. Forster's attempt to draw him into an argument on the subject of slavery.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 109
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 661
  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 555

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top