Early in 1933 the BBC Board of Governors passed a resolution congratulating Sir John Reith on 10 years' service, and they proposed that he accept an oil painting (to be commissioned) of himself. The original would be for him, and a replica would hang in Broadcasting House. Oswald Birley (later Sir Oswald) was chosen for the task.
The original has hung over the fireplace in the Council Chamber in Broadcasting House, London, for many years. During the refurbishment of the building it was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery. The replica is in a public gallery in Scotland.
Earlier Birley, who studied under Marcel Baschet in Paris, had painted King George V for the National Museum of Wales.