Sir Max Beerbohm

1 portrait on display in Room 29 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sir Max Beerbohm, by Sir William Newzam Prior Nicholson, 1905 - NPG 3850 - © Desmond Banks

© Desmond Banks

Sir Max Beerbohm

by Sir William Newzam Prior Nicholson
oil on canvas, 1905
19 3/4 in. x 15 1/4 in. (502 mm x 400 mm)
Bequeathed by Gertrude Kinnell (née Cass), 1953
Primary Collection
NPG 3850

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The artist William Nicholson and the caricaturist Max Beerbohm were close friends throughout their lives and used to meet for breakfast once a month. They were described by the writer and gallery owner Lillian Browse as 'curiously alike in their fastidiousness, sensitivity and whimsicality', although William Nicholson's taste in clothes was louder than Beerbohm's. This portrait of Beerbohm by Nicholson suggests Beerbohm's hypersensitivity about his appearance, with his closely fitting long black overcoat like an undertaker's, his dark, sleeked hair and the top hat, later described by Robert Graves as 'a certain superbly glossy top hat' which was left in Nicholson's studio to store paintbrushes when Beerbohm emigrated to Italy. The portrait was bequeathed to the Gallery by Mrs Gertrude Kinnell in 1953 and was accepted by the Trustees only with the proviso that it could not be exhibited during Beerbohm's lifetime.

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Current affairs

Following turmoil over the issue of Free Trade, Balfour resigns and calls an election, believing that the Liberals will be defeated. However, he is mistaken and Henry Campbell-Bannerman replaces him as the Liberal government Prime Minister. The foundation of the Ulster Unionist Council, established to campaign against Home Rule, marks the birth of the Ulster Unionist party in Northern Ireland with the Duke of Abercorn as the first elected president.

Art and science

The Bloomsbury group of artists and intellectuals begin to hold informal gatherings at the home of Vanessa and Virginia Stephen. The group includes the artist Duncan Grant, biographer Lytton Strachey, and the art critics Clive Bell and Roger Fry. The German theoretical physicist Albert Einstein has his 'annus mirabilis', publishing groundbreaking papers on the nature of light and motion, including his relation of mass and energy in the equation e = mc2.


Massacre of more than 100 workers at a peaceful demonstration by troops in St Petersburg becomes known as 'Bloody Sunday'. The event sparks the 1905 Revolution, with uprisings and peasant revolts in other cities, leading the Tsar to issue the October Manifesto, pledging moderate reform, including the establishment of an elected 'duma' (government), which only partially appeases imperial opposition. Still fighting Japan, the internal agitation weakens the imperial army.

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