- Museum number
Portrait of Sir George (Francis) Hill (1867-1948).
Oil painting on canvas
- Production date
Height: 758 millimetres
Width: 628 millimetres (C Terrey)
- Curator's comments
- Of the artist, Sir James Gunn, it was said (ODNB) that his portraits were “severe and even bitter in expression, painted with scrupulous distinction, with nothing evaded”. This is perhaps the most human of the Museum’s Boardroom portraits. Hill was an outstanding numismatist, with (it is said) a sense of humour but also subject to depression.
Born in India he was separated from his family at the age of four to be educated in England. A brilliant scholar, he joined the Museum in 1893 and became a prolific writer and researcher, contributing on a wide range of subjects which included Greek coins, Renaissance medals, treasure trove, and the history of Cyprus.
He was, in 1931, the first non-librarian since the 18th century to be appointed Director and Principal Librarian. His achievements were immense but yet in an autobiography written after his in retirement in 1936 he wrote that he would not wish to have his life over again. The portrait appears to catch some of these contradictions.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
New Wing Boardroom (to 2003)
Trustees' Strongroom (in storage)
- For most recent condition report see Lynne Harrison, DCDS 2.8.05.
- Acquisition notes
- Library Association Record 1937: A portrait of the late Director & Principal Librarian, Sir George Hill, painted for subscribers by Mr James Gunn, and destined for the Museum’s Boardroom , is hung on the line at the Royal Academy’s Summer exhibition...
The Museums’ Journal, Vol 39 (1936): Letters to the Editor. Portrait of Sir George Hill. Sir George Hill, as has been publicly announced, will retire from the [British Museum] ... Mr James Gunn has been invited to paint it. A reproduction will be made and distributed to subscribers.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number