The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

William Gladstone chopping wood

William Gladstone chopping wood

A cabinet card portrait of the British statesman William Gladstone (1809-1898), seen here chopping wood at Hawarden, his estate in North Wales.

This unconventional portrait – showing a shirt-sleeved, informal Prime Minister, resting from his labours – stands in stark contrast to the more traditional commercial portraits of famous figures during this period, with their formal studio arrangements and near-standardized range of poses. Gladstone must have been a willing participant in the creation of the photograph, or at least, approved its mass distribution, and we can therefore deduce that he was consciously manipulating his public image by aligning himself with the values of industry. He must have been aware that the sight of a senior government official not averse to physical labour would have struck a chord with many of his constituents.

Photographed in 1877 by William Currey of Bolton and Manchester.


Code: 126362
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© Paul Frecker 2018