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Portrait of Tony Blair by Loughborough University academic unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery

Tony Blair by Alastair Adams (copyright The National Gallery)

A portrait of Tony Blair by Loughborough University artist and academic, Alastair Adams has been unveiled by The National Portrait Gallery, London.

The painting was commissioned by the gallery in line with its wish to acquire portraits of all former British Prime Ministers.

The large oil painting (four feet by three) shows the former British Prime Minister in dramatic close-up. Begun in the spring of 2011, the first sittings took place at Tony Blair’s home, South Pavilion in Wotton Underwood, in Buckinghamshire, where Adams was able to begin working on sketches to establish a definitive pose. Working from life and using photographs for reference, Adams worked up several portraits in oils and in graphite. The resulting work is a very immediate portrayal of the longest-serving Labour Prime Minister and, to date, the youngest Labour Prime Minister to take up office since 1812.

Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The direct gaze of the sitter is uncompromising but also reflects his considerable skill as a negotiator on the world stage. The Gallery is now able to represent Tony Blair with a portrait consonant with the personality of an individual who has considerably shaped the political, economic and cultural climate of Britain.”

Alastair Adams is Lecturer in Graphic Communication and Illustration at Loughborough University, practicing portraiture and publishing papers that examine commissioned portraiture, life drawing within a modern educational context, drawing and visualisation and facial difference. He trained as an illustrator through which he developed his interest in figurative and portrait painting. In 2002 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and in 2005 became the Society’s Treasurer. In 2008 he was made President, the youngest in the Society’s 122 year history. He is also a Co-Director of the contemporary drawing research group and journal, TRACEY.

As well as Tony Blair, Alastair has produced paintings of many other notable subjects, including a number of Lords and former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Ian Blair. Closer to home Alastair had also painted portraits of the University’s former Chancellor John Jennings and former Vice Chancellor Professor Shirley Pearce, the portraits of whom are on display in the Hazlerigg Building on the University campus.

Alastair comments: ‘I believe in creating natural, unassuming paintings based on an incisive, observational drawing practice.’

Tony Blair by Alastair Adams will be on public display from 13 January in Room 32, The Balcony Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, London. Admission is Free.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 14/01

  1. Educated at the University of Oxford, Tony Blair was elected to the House of Commons as the Labour Member of Parliament for Sedgefield in 1983. He became Shadow Home Secretary in 1992 and became Leader of the Opposition after John Smith’s sudden death in 1994. Under his leadership Labour won a historic landslide victory in the general election in May 1997. Blair led the party to victory in three consecutive elections, becoming the longest-serving Labour Prime Minister before resigning in 2007. He led extensive public service reform of school and hospitals, negotiated the Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland, led the London 2012 Games bid and oversaw the UK’s involvement in the conflict in Iraq. Since leaving office, he continues to play a role in public life, as special envoy to the Middle East for the ‘Quartet’, working with the Palestinians to prepare for statehood as part of the international community’s effort to secure peace.
  2. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines. It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year title in 2008-09 and has been named Sports University of the Year 2013-14 by The Times and Sunday Times. Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and has been voted England's Best Student Experience for six years running in the Times Higher Education league. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.


Alison Barlow
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T:01509 228696

Neil Evans
Press Office
National Portrait Gallery

PR team

Telephone: 01509 222224