William Rothenstein (1872 - 1945)

Democracy and Tyranny, 1917

SKU: 10306
Signed and titled in the plate. Lithograph.

Height – 43cm x Width – 71cm


David Cohen Fine Art; Private Collection

Democracy, in the form of a female figures, has been unchained, whilst the cloaked, bowed German solder symbolising Tyranny is handcuffed, and the hope for the Future, in the form of a baby is presented by another to the arms of Democracy.

Rothenstein worked as a painter, lithographer, draughtsman and writer. Born in Bradford he went on to study at the Slade School, London and the Académie Julian, Paris. From 1891 Rothenstein was drawing the interest of artists such as Degas and Pissaro. He was appointed official war artist to the British Army in France, 1917-1918, and to the Canadian army of occupation, 1919. In 1931 he was knighted.

This work forms part of the portfolio The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals, a series of 66 lithographic prints commissioned by the Ministry of Information in 1917. The series provide a broad and fascinating representation of Britain’s war objectives, military activities and effort on the Home Front.

Modern British Art Gallery are continually seeking to improve the quality of the information on their website. We actively undertake to post new and more accurate information on our stable of artists.

We openly acknowledge the use of information from other sites including Wikipedia, and and other public domains. We are grateful for the use of this information and we openly invite any comments on how to improve the accuracy of what we have posted.


William Rothenstein
1872 - 1945

William Rothenstein was born into a Jewish family in Bradford, West Yorkshire and studied at the Slade School of Art (his teachers included Alphonse Legros) and in Paris, where he met and was encouraged by James McNeill Whistler and Edgar Degas. He was a friend of caricaturist and parodist Max Beerbohm. Rothenstein became known for his portrait drawings of famous individuals and was an official war artist in both World War I and World War II. He was a member of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters & Gravers.

Rothenstein maintained a lifelong fascination for Indian sculpture and painting, and in 1910 set out on a seminal tour of the Subcontinent’s major artistic and religious sites. This began with a visit to the ancient Buddhist caves of Ajanta, where he observed Lady Christiana Herringham and Nandalal Bose making watercolor copies of the ancient frescoes; and ended with a stay in Calcutta, where he witnessed the attempts of Abanindranath Tagore to revive the techniques and aesthetics of traditional Indian painting.

Rothenstein was Principal of the Royal College of Art from 1920 to 1935, where he encouraged figures including Jacob Epstein, U Ba Nyan, Henry Moore and Paul Nash. He wrote several books, including English Portraits (1898) and the autobiographical volumes, Men and Memories. He was knighted in 1931.

William Rothenstein was the father of art historian Sir John Rothenstein, who was the director of the Tate Gallery from 1938 to 1964, and the highly respected British printmaker Michael Rothenstein, whose divorce from Duffy Ayers caused a major controversy in British society.
Sir William Rothenstein, photo by George Charles Beresford, 1920

Rabindranath Tagore dedicated his Nobel Prize winner poetry collection Gitanjali to William Rothenstein.

With thanks to