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One of the most important Labour leaders of the 19th century, a working class radical and one of the leaders of the London Dock Strike of 1899. Described variously a agitator, demagogue, opportunist, a great orator, a founding father of the Labour Party and one of Unionism’s greatest champions. For further information see: Ben Tillett, portrait of a Labour leader by Jonathan Schneer. Pub’d by Croom Helm 1982. Unsigned, but by T. Alfred West.
English, circa 1890 - 1935
Height 26” (66cm) Width 22.5” (57cm)
Stock No. 20
Born in 1864 in Manchester, one of ten children and the son of an upholsterer, Thomas Alfred West spent most of his life living and working in Liverpool, studying art in both the Manchester and Liverpool Schools of Art. He also studied sculpture and modelling in London under the renowned French sculptor and medallist, Edouard Lanteri, who came to England to teach in the South Kensington Arts School, becoming the college’s first Professor of Modelling in 1900.
At the age of 16, West began working as a Lithographic artist, skilfully making authorised copies for the creation of prints of contemporary artists, and, as he became more accomplished, went on to win various awards and prizes for his own work, especially the Queen’s Prize for Drawing and Painting as well as numerous National Book prizes.
Becoming highly acclaimed in his field, he painted many eminent and high-ranking members of the clergy, politics, industry and the community, notably Sir James Sexton M.P., the Archbishop of Liverpool, Dr Downey, the Bishop of Barbados, Rev D. Bentley and the socialist, Ben Tillett. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, The Royal Institute of Painters in Oil and The Royal Cambrian Academy, as well as leading provincial art galleries such as Liverpool (now the Walker) and Manchester.
His wife, Elizabeth Byass (b.1867) and her sister, Rosa (b. 1878) – a subject of at least one of his paintings – were the daughters of a wealthy Yorkshire farmer/landowner. T. Alfred West and Elizabeth had one child, a daughter, Marjorie, born in 1906, who is represented in at least one of our paintings.
T. Alfred West’s ability with the brush to reproduce personality and mood is remarkable. He was able to capture as much the essence of hauteur, eminence and sophistication, as the innocence of childhood and allure of womanhood. His style changes to suit the sitter and his or her characteristics; precision for the austere and distinguished, larger, sweeping brush strokes for the relaxed and more rakish, and subtle use of colour and warmth for the women and children. His subjects rarely smile but radiate their personality through West’s skilful presentation of their eyes and demeanour.