Library Artwork: Portraits in the Law Library

Justice John Marshall

In addition to the caricatures and engravings in study room 306, the library is also home to three more traditional portraits of important figures in legal history: Judge Thomas Burke, St Thomas More, and Justice John Marshall. 

Alonzo Victor Lewis (Judge Thomas Burke) was an artist of the Pacific Northwest, primarily known for his public sculpture—including the World War I memorial, Winged Victory, outside the capitol building in Olympia. His portrait of Judge Thomas Burke commemorates one of Seattle first prominent lawyers. Burke moved to Washington in 1875 and eventually became Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court. He was known for his civic activism, speaking out against racial intolerance during the anti-Chinese riot of 1886, and also a supporter of educational and cultural growth within the city.

Judge Thomas Burke

A print of one of the more famous pieces housed in the library is Hans Holbein’s portrait of English statesman and saint, Sir Thomas More (portrait 1527). Holbein was the court painter under King Henry VIII of England and produced the iconic portraits of Henry and his daughters, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Thomas More, also the author of the humanist classic Utopia, was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1935 and is the patron saint of lawyers and politicians. More was personal friend and advisor to Henry VIII until the king decided to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. A devout Catholic and moralist, More heavily objected to the divorce and the break with the Catholic Church that came as a result, and was subsequently convicted and executed for treason because of his beliefs.

Sir Thomas More

Rona Lee has provided the library with a modern portrait of John Marshall (1801-1853), the 4th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (see above). Marshall is credited with helping lay the basis for American constitutional law as well as raising the status of the judicial branch to an equal position with the legislative and executive branches of the US government. He held the position for over thirty years at a time when the United States was continuing to grow as a democracy after the Revolutionary War, making him not only the longest serving Chief Justice, but also one of the most important figures in American legal history.

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