Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Sir William Agnew, 1st Bt (1825-1910), Art dealer

Art dealer, patron, MP and philanthropist; born 20 October 1825, in Salford, Lancashire. Partner from 1850 in family firm Thos. Agnew & Sons; from 1870 partner in Bradbury & Evans, publishers of Punch and chairman 1890; Liberal MP 1880–86; created baronet 2 September 1895; died London, 31 October 1910.

A friend and supporter of Gladstone, Agnew also helped form great private art collections of the age, including those of Henry Tate and Lord Iveagh. He promoted many leading painters and dominated the art market for thirty years. [1] On being created baronet he was described as ‘the greatest art publisher and dealer in England’. [2] Despite ‘hard-headed and brilliant business abilities’, he was also a ‘sympathetic and imaginative individual’ with a keen eye for saleable pictures, who was the ‘pivot of many artists’ careers’. [3]

In 1888, Agnew was described as ‘a handsome man just past the prime of life, a fine type of the robust English gentleman … with the air of a man fully aware of his own importance. He is the recognised head of the trade, the Grand Mogul of picture-trade-land’. [4]

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) Agnew 1967; Farr 2004.
2) AJ, ‘Art Notes’, 1895, p.254.
3) Treble 1978, p.44.
4) Spielmann 1888, p.231.

Referencesback to top

Agnew 1967
Agnew, G., Agnew’s 1817–1967, London, 1967.

Baldry 1901
Baldry, A.L., Hubert von Herkomer, London, 1901.

Bills & Knight 2006
Bills, M., and V. Knight, eds, William Powell Frith: Painting the Victorian Age, London, 2006.

Bryant 2003
Bryant, J., Kenwood: Paintings in the Iveagh Bequest, New Haven and London, 2003.

Farr 2004
Farr, D., ‘Agnew family, per. 1817–1986’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004.

Furniss 1890a
Furniss, H., M.P.s in Session, from Mr Punch’s Parliamentary Portrait Gallery, London, 1890.

Furniss 1894
Furniss, H., with note by E.J. Milliken, Catalogue of a Collection of Drawings, Political and Pictorial by Harry Furniss, exh. cat., Fine Art Society, London, 1894.

Furniss 1901
Furniss, H., Confessions of a Caricaturist, 2 vols, London, 1901.

Furniss 1924
Furniss, H., Some Victorian Men, London, 1924.

Gaunt 1972
Gaunt, W., The Restless Century: Painting in Britain 1800–1900, London, 1972.

Marks 1896
Marks, J.G., Life and Letters of Frederick Walker, A.R.A., London and New York, 1896.

Millar 1937
Millar, C.C.H., George du Maurier and Others, London, 1937.

Noakes 1978
Noakes, A., William Frith: Extraordinary Victorian Painter, London, 1978.

Snow 1975
Snow, C.P., Trollope, London, 1975.

Spielmann 1888
Spielmann, M.H., ‘Glimpses of Artist-life: Christies’, Magazine of Art, 1888, pp.225–32.

Spielmann 1895a
Spielmann, M.H., The History of Punch, London, 1895.

Treble 1978
Treble, R., intro., Great Victorian Pictures: Their Paths to Fame, exh. cat., London, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978.

Walery 1888–96
Walery [Stanislas Julian, Count Ostrorog], ed., Our Celebrities: A Portrait Gallery … Portraits by Walery, 5 vols (vol.1 ed. L. Engel), London, 1888–96.

Wood 1976
Wood, C., Victorian Panorama: Paintings of Victorian Life, London, 1976.

Wood 2006
Wood, C., William Powell Frith: A Painter & His World, Stroud, Glos., 2006.