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William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook

by Walter Sickert, based on a photograph by Unknown photographer
oil on canvas, 1935
69 3/8 in. x 42 1/4 in. (1762 mm x 1073 mm)
Given by Beaverbrook Foundation, 1977
Primary Collection
NPG 5173

Sitterback to top

Artistsback to top

  • Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), Painter. Artist or producer associated with 11 portraits, Sitter associated with 21 portraits.
  • Unknown photographer, Photographer. Artist or producer associated with 6567 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Commissioned by Sir James Dunn, a fellow Canadian, this portrait was painted from a press photograph, which Sickert set against a backdrop depicting Margate harbour.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG x88654: William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook (source portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Audio Guide
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 43
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 209 Read entry

    This larger-than-life portrait of the newspaper proprietor and politician Baron Beaverbrook by Walter Sickert (1860–1942) was commissioned by Sir James Dunn, a Canadian financier and an energetic patron of the arts. Himself a Canadian, Beaverbrook had settled in England in 1910 and was elected a Unionist Member of Parliament the same year. Knighted in 1911, he received a peerage in 1917, becoming Minister of Information in 1918. Beaverbrook’s passion was journalism and he began acquiring shares in British newspapers from the moment of his arrival. By 1916 he had a controlling interest in the Daily Express, following this with the acquisition of the Sunday Express in 1918 and the Evening Standard in 1923. It is appropriate therefore that Sickert based the portrait on a photograph that he had spotted in the press. Taken in 1934, this informal snapshot showed Beaverbrook standing on the veranda of his country house near Leatherhead, Surrey. While Sickert felt that ‘the expression was perfect’, he nevertheless depicted Beaverbrook standing in front of Margate harbour, the location of the artist’s studio but a place that Beaverbrook had never visited.

Placesback to top

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1935back to top

Current affairs

Stanley Baldwin starts his third term as Prime Minister after Ramsay Macdonald resigns due to ill health. Coincidentally, Baldwin's first term in office also came about when the Prime Minister of the time, Bonar Law, stepped down due to illness in 1923.

Art and science

Robert Watson-Watt demonstrates Radar, showing how an aircraft can be tracked by detecting radio waves reflected off it. During the war, Watson-Watt established a network of machines and operators that helped detect the approach of enemy aircraft in the Battle of Britain.
Penguin publishes its first paperback books, making reading more portable and affordable to a wider audience.


Italy invades Abyssinia. The invasion of the country now known as Ethiopia was part of Mussolini's plan to create an Italian Empire. It was also an attempt to avenge Abyssinia's victory over the Italian army at Adowa in 1896.
Germany introduces conscription, breaking the disarmament clause of the Treaty of Versailles.

Tell us more back to top

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Martin Hopkinson

07 April 2021, 16:22

Not necessarily a press photograph , as this was painted in Sickert's house in St Peter's in Thanet, very adjacent to Margate, in which he executed a series of full length portraits, including the famous one of the King. He also had access to Margate School of Art, where he taught, and he exhibited at Lovelys Gallery in Margate. A local photographer or a friend or even his wife Therese Lessore, could well have been involved , but if it was a newspaper photograph was used, it was almost certainly from the local Margate newspaper
I walk past Sickert's upstairs studio very regularly. A number of his Broadstairs and St Peter's paintings are lost or unrecognised - including one of a Margate clergyman, and one of a house opposite the home of my grandparents. There is a certain amount of confusion , for a painting said to be of his rented home in St Peter's is really of his later home in Batheaston

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