9 of 71 portraits of Ramsay MacDonald
by Herbert George Ponting
bromide print, circa 1931
3 7/8 in. x 2 7/8 in. (97 mm x 72 mm) image size
Transferred from National Portrait Gallery Reference Collection (originally purchased, 2016), 2016
Sitterback to top
- (James) Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937), Prime Minister. Sitter associated with 71 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Herbert George Ponting (1870-1935), Photographer and antarctic explorer. Artist associated with 13 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.
This portraitback to top
In 1927 Herbert George Ponting patented a lens attachment he dubbed the “variable controllable distortograph,” describing it as “a revolutionary optical system for photographing in caricature or distortion.” In 1933 he presented this innovation at the Royal Photographic Society of London under the slogan ‘The Camera Cannot Lie’. The distortograph is described as comprising a complete optical system which can be worked in conjunction with any suitable studio camera, the optical equipment being placed in front of the camera lens. The device also enables motion films to be made from still photographs. The apparatus allows for a variety of different caricatures to be obtained from single portrait. This distortograph of Ramsay MacDonald was probably taken at the time of political turmoil when MacDonald was expelled from the Labour Party.
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- Photography: A Public Art, 1840-1939 (4 November 2017 - 14 October 2018)
Events of 1931back to top
Current affairsSailors at the Invergordon naval base mutiny in response to pay cuts. The cuts of up to 25% were part of the government's attempt to deal with the Great Depression by reducing public spending. Sailors protested by holding meetings and refusing orders.
Dr Harold Moody founds the League of Coloured Peoples, lobbying for equal rights for black people in Britain and for international civil rights.
Art and scienceThe modern tube map is introduced. Harry Beck's design was unique in following the properties of a circuit diagram rather than the geographical location of the stations.
The Vic-Wells Ballet company is founded by Dame Ninette de Valois and housed by Lilian Baylis at Sadler's Wells Theatre. It was granted a Royal Charter in 1957 and became the Royal Ballet.
InternationalThe Second Spanish Republic is established. Following an election dominated by the Republicans, King Alfonso XIII abdicated and a new constitution was drawn up.
The Statute of Westminster grants legislative equality to the self-governing Dominions of the British Empire. The Statue decreed that the British Government could no longer make ordinary law for the dominions unless it was at their request and with their consent.