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National Portrait Gallery

Restoration of Naval Officers of World War 1 NPG001

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10/07/2013: The National Portrait Gallery in partnership with DONATE has successfully raised the funds we need to repair this damaged artwork. The Gallery will display this portrait in 2014 to commemorate the centenary of the Great War.


Urgent need for conservation

Naval Officers of World War I has not been seen for several decades because its poor condition makes it unfit for display. Over the years the canvas has slackened, there are several damages to the paint surface and the entire surface needs cleaning. The original gilded frame also requires restoration. Conservation of the painting and frame is time-consuming and costly, but without this essential treatment one of the Gallery’s grandest group portraits remains hidden from view. 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War and if the conservation target is reached the Gallery will display the restored portrait in that special year.

The painting

Naval Officers of World War I is one of three large group portraits commissioned by the South African millionaire Sir Abe Bailey in the aftermath of the Great War. Bailey’s idea was that these works would be presented to the nation and would depict the most distinguished Naval Commanders, Military Commanders and Statesmen of that era. Stockdale Cope declined the invitation to paint the statesmen, opting instead for the naval commanders. The statesmen were eventually painted by Sir John Lavery, with John Singer Sargent taking the military commanders (on display in Room 30). Set in the Admiralty Board Room in Whitehall, the Naval Officers of World War I is an imaginative arrangement comprising twenty-two portraits of the navy’s most senior figures.

The National Portrait Gallery urgently needs to raise funds to restore Naval Officers of World War I and for other charitable projects. Thank you for your support.

Image: Naval Officers of World War I oil on canvas, by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope, signed, 1921

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