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Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1815-16. ©Wellington Collection, Apsley House, London (English Heritage).

LONDON.- The first gallery exhibition devoted to the Duke of Wellington will open at the National Portrait Gallery, to mark the 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015, it was announced today (Wednesday 29 October 2014).


Catherine (‘Kitty’) Pakenham, Duchess of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1814 © Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust

Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions (12 Mar-7 Jun 2015) will explore not only the political and military career of the victor of this great battle – but also his personal life through portraits of his family and friends.

Highlights include Goya’s portrait of Wellington started in 1812 after his entry into Madrid and later modified twice to recognise further battle honours and awards; and from Wellington’s London home, Apsley House, Thomas Lawrence’s famous 1815 portrait painted in the same year as the Battle of Waterloo. This iconic military image of Wellington was used as the basis of the design of the British five pound note from 1971 to 1991.

Drawn from museums and private collections including that of the present Duke of Wellington, the exhibition of 59 portraits and other art works has the support of the Marquess of Douro, and includes rarely-seen loans from the family including a portrait by John Hoppner of the Duke as a youthful soldier and a daguerreotype portrait by Antoine Claudet, in the new medium of photography, taken on Wellington’s 75th birthday in 1844. The family has also loaned Thomas Lawrence’s beautiful drawing of Wellington’s wife, Kitty (née Pakenham).

The real experience of soldiers fighting in Wellington’s armies will be explored through eyewitness accounts, including prints based on sketches by serving soldiers and the illustrated diary of a young officer, Edmund Wheatley written, in a lively style, with the intention of it being read by his sweetheart.


Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Francisco de Goya, 1812-14 © The National Gallery, London

Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions considers the attempts of the art world to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s military successes. Commemorative objects on display will range from royal commissions by Europe’s foremost artists and manufacturers to more modest souvenirs aimed at the domestic market. Wellington’s eventful and often difficult political career will be illustrated by examples of the many satirical prints published in the 1820s and 1830s and the exhibition will also examine the reappraisal of Wellington’s life that took place at his death and on the occasion of his lavish state funeral.

The Duke of Wellington’s long life (1769 –1852) spanned the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most famous for his victory over Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, he later entered politics, serving twice as Prime Minister. Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions will explore the role of visual culture in creating the hero, the legacy of heroism and the role of the portrait in Wellington’s own public and personal self-representation.

Curated by Paul Cox, Associate Curator, National Portrait Gallery, with close support from Dr Lucy Peltz, Curator of Eighteenth-Century Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, this biographical exhibition will use portraits and objects to explore Wellington’s military career and his sometimes controversial political and personal life.

Paul Cox, Associate Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo is well known. This exhibition provides the opportunity to examine less familiar aspects of his life, including the long political career during which he saw through important forward-looking legislation, but suffered a dramatic loss of popularity. I hope that visitors to the exhibition will gain a fuller picture of Wellington as a man, rather than simply as a hero.


The Duke of Wellington showing the Prince Regent (later George IV) the battlefield of Waterloo by Benjamin Robert Haydon, c. 1844 © Stratfield Saye Preservation Trust