Arthur James Balfour was born in East Lothian and educated in England. He entered Parliament in 1874 and became leader of the House of Commons in 1891. From 1902 until 1905 he served as Prime Minister, but resigned amidst disagreement over tariff reforms. In 1915 Balfour was made First Lord of the Admiralty and a year later he became Foreign Secretary, a position he held until 1919. This painting is a study for Guthrie’s large painting, ‘Statesmen of the Great War’, in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Although preparations began directly after the 1918 Armistice, Guthrie did not finish the painting until shortly before his death in 1930. In the final painting Balfour is standing behind a table – leaving only his upper body visible – which explains this half-length sketch.