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Admiral of the Fleet John Jellicoe, 1859-1935, 1st Earl Jellicoe

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings, Maritime Art Greenwich
Gallery locationQH (Floor plans)
PeopleDepiction: Jellicoe, John Rushworth
copyright holder: Monnington, John Pardoe

Object details:

Object ID BHC2804
Description A three-quarter-length portrait slightly to the left, wearing an admiral of the fleet's frock coat, 1901-29. He also wears the medal ribbons and the cross of the Order of Merit, with the button and medal ribbons carefully delineated. A gunnery specialist, Jellicoe served in the Egyptian campaign of 1882. He was also one of the survivors of the collision between the battleships 'Victoria' and 'Camperdown' in the Mediterranean in 1893. In 1900 he was Chief of Staff on the international overland expedition that relieved the European legations in Peking during the Boxer Rising. He also played an important role in the modernization of the Navy under Admiral John Fisher. As Director of Naval Ordnance, 1905-07, and Controller of the Navy, 1908-10, Jellicoe promoted the new 'dreadnought' battleships, and torpedo boats and submarines. In November 1911, he was appointed second-in-command of the British Grand Fleet, and on the outbreak of the First World War, became its commander. He led it in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 but was criticized for his defensive attitude towards sea warfare and in late 1916 was replaced by Sir David Beatty. He became First Sea Lord until his dismissal by the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, on 24 December 1917, following a disagreement about the introduction of convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic. After the war Jellicoe became Governor of New Zealand, 1920-24, and was created Earl Jellicoe in 1925. The portrait was commissioned by HMS 'Excellent', the Royal Naval Gunnery School at Portsmouth, to commemorate its centenary. It was begun in the artist's studio in Chelsea in 1932 but, due to Jellicoe's ill health, was not completed until the following year. It proved to be a controversial painting and was openly disliked by Lady Jellicoe, since the artist did not attempt to disguise her husband's age and infirmity. Indeed, at this stage Jellicoe had no hearing, taste or smell and was nearly blind, himself attributing these sensory deprivations to his long service as a gunnery officer. The portrait intentionally invokes a sense of loss in the sitter through an elongated perspective and underscores the isolation of his illness by the lack of direction in his sightless gaze. Even his gloves hang limply from his left hand. The flatness of the deep blue sky and sea also stylistically invoke mural painting, which was enjoying a revival in the 1930s. The picture has a haunting and surreal quality, evoking Jellicoe's past greatness in the Navy, and is an important early work by 'Tom' Monnington (he did not use his first name) who was later President of the Royal Academy, though his work in representational portraiture was superseded from the later 1930s by a greater interest in landscape and especially of its modern technical features, since he had an untrained but serious interest in scientific subjects. He was briefly an official war artist in 1943-44, working on air-force subjects but also doing a few naval portrait drawings of which there are three examples in the Museum collection. This oil portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy's summer exhibition in 1934 but HMS 'Excellent' rejected it in deference to Lady Jellicoe's antipathy, ordering a more sympathetic one by Reginald Eves instead. It remained with the artist until 1960, when he offered it to the Museum and agreed to accept £100 for it.
Date made 1933

Artist/Maker Monnington, Walter Thomas
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund. Reproduced with kind permission of the Artist's Estate.
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 1270 mm x 1015 mm; Frame: 1482 mm x 1245 mm x 125 mm; Overall: 39 kg
  • Admiral of the Fleet John Jellicoe, 1859-1935, 1st Earl Jellicoe (BHC2804)
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