“Professor Smith” (featured above – 1911, oil on canvas, 81.7 x 62.4cm) was painted by New Zealand born artist Oswald Hornby Joseph Birley. It is part of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Wellington collection, a gift from the Wellington Savage Club.
Born on 31st March, 1880, into an old Lancashire family in the UK, Birley became an English portrait painter and Royal portraitist in the early part of the 20th century.
- Educated firstly at Harrow and later at Trinity College, Cambridge he served in France during WW1 with both the Royal Fusiliers and the Intelligence Corps, obtaining the rank of Captain.
- He was awarded the Military Cross in 1919.
- During WW2, Birley served as a major in the Home Guard.
- He painted several highly regarded portraits of his friend Sir Winston Churchill (to whom he also gave lessons) and also a life-size portrait of Mahatma Gandhi which was the first to be hung in the Lok Sabha shortly after Indian Independence on 28 August 1947.
- He is responsible for painting some well known Royal portraits including those of: King George V, Queen Mary, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother; and the current Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
He died on 6tth May, 1952.
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