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Sir Max Beerbohm

10 of 16 portraits 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 Mrs G. Kinnell, 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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