With just four months before the UK heads to the polls for a general election, Prime Minister David Cameron has yet to sit for a portrait to be held within the Parliamentary Art Collection.
His refusal to make time to sit for one of the traditional, oil on canvas portraits that hang in Westminster Palace mirrors that of his foe, former PM Gordon Brown, who also didn’t allow a portrait to be painted while he was in office.
Critics have claimed that the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, which commissions the portraits is an extravagance only meant to glorify members of parliament. The committee has reportedly spent £250,000 on portraits and other works of art depicting Prime Ministers and MPs since 1995. Several MPs have spoken out against the expense, judging it unnecessary amidst calls for further austerity measures to combat the country’s deficit.
Art critics have joined the calls as well. Brian Sewell told the Independent: “Most contemporary portraits are awful bits of flattery that don’t tell the truth about politicians. What is the point in employing portrait painters, who can charge up to £30,000, when you can get a photograph for next to nothing? These self-important people are being sensible in not wanting to be painted.”
However, a spokesperson for the committee countered, “The Parliamentary Art Collection at the House of Commons records those who have made a significant contribution to UK political life over the centuries.”
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