Pembroke College was founded in 1347, by a French noblewoman, Marie de St Pol, wife of Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke. It is the third oldest of the surviving colleges. Apart from the altarpiece (a fine copy of Federico Barocci’s 'Entombment') the College’s paintings are almost exclusively portraits, mostly of Masters and bishops. The earliest is of Richard Foxe, Bishop of Winchester. The College owns portraits of the poets Thomas Gray and Christopher Smart and their contemporaries, William Mason, by Joshua Reynolds, and the cantankerous Master, Roger Long. The younger Pitt, perhaps Pembroke’s most famous member, is also represented here. The most interesting nineteenth-century portraits are those by Hubert von Herkomer of John Couch Adams, the co-discoverer of the planet Neptune, and the painting of his contemporary, the great physicist and mathematician, Sir George Gabriel Stokes. Allan Gwynne-Jones’ portrait of the conservative politician, R. A. Butler and Daphne Todd’s meticulous painting of Richard Adrian (Master) stand out, as does the notably informal, more recent portrait of Nobel Laureate Sir John Sulston, by Tom Phillips.
It is stressed that the paintings at Pembroke College are not in public ownership. In accordance with the charitable aims of the College, which is a private institution, we are including our paintings on this website to widen public awareness and for the benefit of scholarship.