William Wilberforce by Sir Thomas Lawrence
The William Wilberforce portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence has been loaned to the Ferens by the National Portrait Gallery.

William Wilberforce portrait returns home

A famous portrait of one of the city’s most celebrated sons, William Wilberforce, goes on display at Ferens Art Gallery this weekend.

The portrait, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, has been loaned to the gallery as part of COMING HOME, a project from the National Portrait Gallery which is placing 50 portraits of iconic individuals in places across the UK where they are most closely associated.

The portrait, along with an accompanying exhibition looking at William Wilberforce’s life and the abolition of slavery, opens to the public on Saturday 21 September.

Councillor Marjorie Brabazon, Chair of Hull Culture and Leisure Limited, said: “We have a rich history in Hull and it is fantastic that the Ferens Art Gallery continues its ambitious exhibitions programme to celebrate this history in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.

“This unique exhibition is a great opportunity to highlight areas of our museum collection alongside the Sir Thomas Lawrence masterpiece.”

William Wilberforce by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Stephanie Jones, exhibitions assistant at Ferens Art Gallery, pictured with Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of William Wilberforce.

William Wilberforce was born in 1759, the son of a Hull merchant. In 1780, Wilberforce was elected MP for Hull and became the parliamentary spokesperson for the campaign to abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In 1833, just weeks after Wilberforce died; the Slavery Act was passed which abolished slavery in the British colonies.

Dr Nicolas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “We are delighted to lend Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of William Wilberforce to Ferens Art Gallery as part of our exciting new COMING HOME initiative.

“We hope that sending portraits ‘home’ in this way will foster a sense of pride and create a personal connection for local communities to a bigger national history; thus helping us to fulfil our aim of being truly a national gallery for everyone, in our role as the nation’s family album.”

As Wilberforce’s portrait will journey home, an accompanying exhibition will look at the reach of his legacy.

The Wilberforce portrait will be on display in the Ferens Art Gallery together with works from the Ferens permanent collection, in partnership with Wilberforce House Museum.

This free exhibition will run from 21 September 2019 until 19 January in Gallery 4.

The Gallery is open Monday – Saturday, 10am until 4.30pm, and Sunday 11am until 4pm.

There will be a programme of talks and events to the complement the exhibition. Find out more about these events here.