Empire and Resistance
During the reign of Queen Victoria, Britain’s empire became the largest in the world. This room explores how portraiture was used to promote the British Empire as the embodiment of global power, civilization and superiority. This belief was widely held at the time but it was also challenged and resisted. These discussions continue today. Displayed here are paintings of military and administrative figures who upheld the empire. There are also images that show people who were living under colonial rule or were caught up in imperial conflict. Other portraits represent individuals who resisted the empire by highlighting its brutality and questioning the very concept of colonialism. Each of these portraits tells a story about the British Empire and the lives it touched. Together, they open up conversations about this complex history and prompt us to ask: who is represented and how.