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Arthur Balfour was a founding Fellow of the British Academy. He was well known as a philosopher before entering Parliament in 1874. He served in Salisbury’s cabinet from 1886 and was Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905. As Premier he was primarily concerned with defence issues and foreign policy, and is probably best remembered for the Balfour Declaration (1917), recommending a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. He was the British Academy’s longest serving President (1921–1928). Sir William Orpen was a successful and fashionable portrait painter equally well known as a war artist of the First World War and an official artist at the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference, where this portrait was painted. Of Balfour he said, ‘What a head! It put all other heads out of the running.
Arthur James Balfour (1848–1930), 1st Earl of Balfour, OM, KG, PC, FBA, FRS
oil on canvas
H 88.5 x W 69.5 cm
gift from Sir Charles Wakefield, 1927