Sir Oswald Birley

John Reith, 1st Baron Reith of Stonehaven, 1889 - 1971. Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation (1933)

About this artwork

In 1922 Reith became the first general manager of the British Broadcasting Corporation and from 1927 he was its Director-General. He had real vision about the role of the BBC in the life of the nation and was largely responsible for establishing the public service ethos of broadcasting and his standards (often imposed dictatorially) are still just evident. This painting is a copy of one commissioned by the BBC. Reith selected the artist who has successfully conveyed his sitter's determined nature. A large scar, received during the First World War, is just visible on his left cheek.

  • title: John Reith, 1st Baron Reith of Stonehaven, 1889 - 1971. Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation
  • accession number: PG 2475
  • artist: Sir Oswald BirleyBritish (1880 - 1952)
  • depicted: John Reith, 1st Baron Reith of Stonehaven
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1933
  • measurements: 127.50 x 102.30 cm
  • credit line: Purchased 1981
  • copyright: © Estate of Mark Birley
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Sir Oswald Birley

Sir Oswald Birley

Birley was born in New Zealand whilst his British parents were making a world tour. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge and was drawn to painting while visiting Europe. He enrolled at the Academie Julien in Paris. A trip to Spain followed where Birley fell under the spell of Velazquez. On his return to Britain, he undertook further training at St John's Wood School of Art, London. During World War I Birley served in the Royal Fusiliers, before joining the Intelligence Corps. After the war he became a successful society portrait painter, and was a particular favourite of the Royal Family. He was knighted in 1949.