A graceful gesture from the UK Parliament. Press release below:
following a commission from the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art.
Painted by the critically acclaimed Northern Irish artist Colin Davidson, the portrait of the former MP for Foyle will hang in Portcullis House, one of the busiest buildings on the Parliamentary Estate, and marks the contribution the Nobel Peace Prize winner made during his 22 years as a Westminster MP.
Painted over a number of weeks at Davidson’s studio in Northern Ireland, it is based on sketches the artist made during sittings with Hume in 2016 – four years before he died.
First elected to the Foyle constituency in 1983, John Hume was a leading figure in the Northern Irish civil rights movement. He was leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) from 1979 to 2001 and one of the key architects of the peace process. In 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace alongside David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party ‘for their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland’.
Supported by his wife Pat, Hume’s work won him support from across the political spectrum both at home and abroad. He continues to be remembered fondly by Members who served alongside him in the House of Commons, as well as those who came after him.
Following a proposal from the Member for Belfast South, Claire Hanna (SDLP), the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art were pleased to commission the portrait as a permanent addition to the Parliamentary Art Collection – recognising Hume’s important role in promoting peace and reconciliation across Northern Ireland, Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP said: “John Hume was one of the true giants of Northern Irish politics. An advocate for democracy across these islands and beyond, it was important for the House to ensure that Hume was finally represented in the Collection.
“He was also one of the most important and impactful parliamentarians of his generation, and is greatly missed by colleagues and Members – both here in Westminster and in Europe. Colin Davidson has captured a wonderful likeness, and the Committee and I are delighted to accept this work into the Parliamentary Art Collection.”
Colin Davidson is a contemporary artist, living and working near Belfast, Northern Ireland. A graduate of the University of Ulster, he has won international recognition for his portraits and is considered one of Northern Ireland’s most important artists. As well as numerous commissions, Davidson’s sitters have included several Northern Irish and Irish politicians, including Lord David Trimble, the Revd. Ian Paisley (Baron Bannside), President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins and Martin McGuinness.
Entitled ‘John Hume’, Davidson began working on the posthumous portrait in 2022. Completed earlier this summer, the painting is oil on canvas measuring 37×40 inches – in keeping with the artist’s commitment to large-scale, impactful works. Hume is shown adjusting his glasses and focusing on the gaze of the person looking at him – retaining a curious, yet quietly self-assured pose.
Davidson first painted Hume in 2016, as part of a private commission. Sitting with John for over two hours, he made a number of sketches as Hume read stories from ‘Silent Testimony’ – Davidson’s collection of portraits and stories of individuals affected by The Troubles. These sketches went on to form the basis of the new composition.
Colin Davidson said: “Six years ago I was honoured to spend time with John Hume, drawing and sketching a man who had become a personal hero for me. Over the last year, I have revisited these drawings and created something new – a different portrait painting which, I hope, captures John’s focused vision and strength of character.
“John meant so much to so many people across these islands. We would not have peace in this part of the world without him, so it is appropriate that this new portrait of John Hume will hang in Westminster now for people to visit and hopefully draw inspiration from. I am grateful to both the Committee – and of course the Hume family – for the privilege.”
John Hume (Jnr), said: “Colin Davidson is one of the finest artists in Ireland today, so we are really looking forward to seeing this painting for the first time. Clare Hanna MP moved heaven and earth to encourage the House of Commons to commission this work and for that we are very grateful. Dad spent 20 years in the House of Commons working hard for the people of Derry. We are delighted that there will now be a permanent reminder of this work on display.”
Dr Séan Farren, Chair of the John and Pat Hume Foundation said: “It is wonderful that Colin Davidson was commissioned by the House of Commons – not only because he is a local and internationally acclaimed artist – but also because Colin, through his work with WAVE, is a campaigner for victims and survivors. His Silent Testimony exhibition features 18 large-scale portraits, capturing the pain and hurt of individuals who suffered loss during the Troubles. Like John and Pat Hume he is a courageous voice for peace and reconciliation.”
Opportunities for the public to view
The portrait of John Hume will be sited alongside other artworks from the Parliamentary Art Collection, in the publicly accessible area of the first floor of Portcullis House. Installation of the work is expected to complete early next year.
Members of the public can view the work when attending Select Committee meetings during sitting times, as well as during special tour events which are scheduled at various periods throughout the year.
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