Sir Oswald Birley

New Zealander / British (1880 - 1952)
Sir Oswald Birley John Reith, 1st Baron Reith of Stonehaven, 1889 - 1971. Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation 1933 © Estate of Mark Birley


Born 1880
Died 1952
Nationalities New Zealander

Birley was born in New Zealand whilst his British parents were making a world tour. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge and was drawn to painting while visiting Europe. He enrolled at the Academie Julien in Paris. A trip to Spain followed where Birley fell under the spell of Velazquez. On his return to Britain, he undertook further training at St John's Wood School of Art, London. During World War I Birley served in the Royal Fusiliers, before joining the Intelligence Corps. After the war he became a successful society portrait painter, and was a particular favourite of the Royal Family. He was knighted in 1949.