Margaret Thatcher’s first Commons address in oil painting

An oil painting of Britain’s first female prime minister Margaret Thatcher addressing the House of Commons for the first time, comes up for sale at London auction house Sworders next month.

The picture of Margaret Thatcher titled First Time at The Box and dated May 1979 was painted at the time by the English portrait painter Alfred Reginald Thompson RA (1894-1979). It remained unfinished and unsigned and its significance had been lost when it was bought at an antiques fair at Kempton Park Racecourse in 2015. The seller said it had come as part of a London house clearance.

First Time at The Box by the English portrait painter Alfred Reginald Thompson

The identity of the artist proved something of a mystery and the new owner had drawn a blank when asking surviving MPs from the first Thatcher cabinet to shed any light on the painting. However, Lord (Patrick) Cormack, a member of the Commons Works of Art Committee across the 1980s, was able to make the link with Alfred Reginald Thomson.

Given permission to sketch from the public gallery in the chamber, the artist (who was deaf from birth) had painted a similar view of the Commons with Macmillan at the despatch box in 1960. Seemingly he had ‘updated’ the image to depict Britain’s first female PM with the use of photographs. Malcolm Hay, then the curator of the Parliamentary Art Collection, confirmed the attribution.

The painting is expected to bring £3,000-5,000 as part of the Modern & Contemporary auction at Sworders in Stansted Mountfitchet on October 4. The picture of Margaret Thatcher’s first day is now on view at Sworders London gallery.