Margaret Thatcher

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Margaret Thatcher

by Rodrigo Moynihan
oil on canvas, 1983-1985
49 3/4 in. x 40 in. (1265 mm x 1015 mm)
Commissioned, 1984
Primary Collection
NPG 5728

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Rodrigo Moynihan (1910-1990), Painter. Artist or producer associated with 8 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This portrait of Thatcher in 10 Downing Street was commissioned after the General Election of 1983, when the Conservative party was re-elected.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 129
  • Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 245
  • Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 252
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 611
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 244 Read entry

    Prime minister between 1979 and 1990, Margaret Thatcher was the first woman to hold the office in Britain and was re-elected twice, in 1983 and 1987. Born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, Thatcher first worked as a research chemist and then as a barrister specialising in tax law. Her House of Commons career began when she was elected Member of Parliament for Finchley in 1959 and she entered the Cabinet as education secretary in 1970. Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975. During her first term in office she led the country into war against Argentina in the Falkland Islands. In her second term the government pursued a controversial programme of privatisation and deregulation that would introduce market mechanisms into areas such as health and education, with wide-ranging impacts upon public services in Britain.

    Commissioned whilst Thatcher was in office, the artist Rodrigo Moynihan (1910–90) had eight sittings with the Prime Minister, which took place at 10 Downing Street. Thatcher expressed concern with the finished painting, however, so the artist continued to work on the portrait, making alterations to the eyes, previously judged to suggest a squint, and the background colour, which was softened from a bright blue to a grey tone.

Placesback to top

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Events of 1983back to top

Current affairs

Margaret Thatcher wins a landslide majority for the Conservative Party at the general election. Although her premiership had previously been unpopular, the British victory in the Falklands coupled with divisions in Michael Foot's Labour opposition, helped her to gain popularity and win the most decisive election victory since 1945.

Art and science

The British sitcom Blackadder is aired for the first time. Each of the four series followed the character of the anti-hero Edmund Blackadder and took place during a different period of British history. The first series, The Black Adder, was a satire of medieval England during the rein of the fictitious Richard IV, and frequently lifted famous lines from Shakespeare.


The armed struggle between Tamil militants and the Sinhalese-dominated government of Sri Lanka begin with the Black July pogrom. Mobs (allegedly supported by the government) started attacking and murdering Tamils following an attack by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on government soldiers. Civil war between the government and Tamil nationalists has continued sporadically ever since.

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