An aristocrat and an independent MP, Burdett entered Parliament in 1796 to become the most influential radical politician. He championed free speech, personal liberty and radical state prisoners. In 1807, with the help of labour activist Francis Place, Burdett successfully stood for Westminster – a hotbed of radicalism. He was arrested and imprisoned for denouncing the House of Common's decision to bar journalists from some debates. Burdett became a national celebrity as 'Burdett and Liberty' riots exploded onto London's streets, marking a shift of popular sympathy towards electoral reform.Lawrence's portrait was begun in 1793, the year of Burdett's marriage to Sophia daughter of the banker Thomas Coutts. The 'Doomsday' book at the foot of the column and the sculpture of an early English king suggest Burdett's commitment to upholding Britain's ancient rights.
Where to see this painting?
National Portrait Gallery, London
St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London, England, WC2H 0HE
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.