STANSTED MOUNTFITCHET, U.K. – An oil painting of Britain’s first female prime minister addressing the House of Commons for the first time sold at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers on October 4 for £22,100. The buyer and underbidder were both based in America, bidding via the telephone.
The picture of Margaret Thatcher, titled First Time at The Box and dated May 1979, was rendered by the English portrait painter Alfred Reginald Thompson (1894-1979). It remained unfinished and unsigned and its significance had been lost when it was bought at an antiques fair at Kempton Park Racecourse in 2015. The seller said it had come as part of a London house clearance.
The identity of the artist proved something of a mystery and the new owner had drawn a blank when asking surviving MPs from the first Thatcher cabinet to shed any light on the painting. However, Lord (Patrick) Cormack, a member of the Commons Works of Art Committee during the 1980s, was able to make the link with Alfred Reginald Thomson.
Given permission to sketch from the public gallery in the chamber, the artist, who was deaf from birth, had painted a similar view of the Commons with Macmillan at the despatch box in 1960. Seemingly he had updated the image to depict Britain’s first female PM with the use of photographs. Malcolm Hay, then the curator of the Parliamentary Art Collection, confirmed the attribution.
The current rate of exchange is £1 = $1.12.
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