National Portrait Gallery acquires bust of architect of American Revolution Thomas Hollis

By Culture24 Reporter | 26 September 2012 | Updated: 26 June 0009
a photo of a marbel bust of a man with short curly hair
Thomas Hollis by Sir Joseph Wilton, c. 1760© National Portrait Gallery, London
The last portrait of the eighteenth-century British thinker and political philosopher Thomas Hollis - one of the architects of American independence - is to remain in Britain after it was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.

The marble bust by Joseph Wilton, RA (1722-1803), is thought to be the finest likeness of the once internationally-renowned defender of civil liberty whose star is only now rising to be on a par with other key figures of the period including Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin.

By the standards of eighteenth century radicals and thinkers Hollis was relatively shy and retiring. It was through his writings and the publication and dissemination of radical political philosophy that he became best known as a passionate advocate of the rights of American colonists, and a key figure closely associated with Franklin and founding father and second President of the United States John Adams.

Opposing the oppression of the colonists through taxation he vigorously opposed the Stamp Act of 1765, tirelessly lobbying parliament and publishing the works of leading American radicals. By 1770 Hollis had become, according to historian, Professor Caroline Robbins, “the busiest literary agent for American writers against the “usurpations” of George III’s ministers.”

Now his Romanesque bust has joined other eighteenth century political luminaries in Room 14 at the NPG, among them former British Prime Minister William Pitt, George III and first American President George Washington.

The Gallery acquired the portrait following a loan period from a private collection, for £293,157 having received £100,000 towards its purchase from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and £57,000 from the Art Fund. 

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