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Thomas Carlyle

7 of 78 portraits of Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle, by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1867 - NPG P123 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Thomas Carlyle

by Julia Margaret Cameron
albumen print, printed in reverse, 1867
13 1/4 in. x 11 1/4 in. (337 mm x 286 mm)
Given by Alfred Jones, 1922
Primary Collection
NPG P123


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Sitterback to top

  • Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Historian and essayist. Sitter associated with 78 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), Pioneer photographer. Artist associated with 112 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Cameron photographed the historian, Thomas Carlyle, at Little Holland House 'to which place', she wrote, 'I had moved my Camera for the sake of taking the great Carlyle'. This amazing profile head of him as an old man, moving slightly in front of the camera, is deliberately and convincingly intended to make him look like an Old Testament prophet. Carlyle himself did not particularly like it, writing that 'It is as if suddenly the picture began to speak, terrifically ugly and woe-begone, but has something of a likeness - my candid opinion.' On the other hand, Roger Fry, who was an early enthusiast for Cameron's work, was eulogistic, writing that 'Neither Whistler nor Watts come near to this in the breadth of the conception, in the logic of the plastic evocations and neither approach the poignancy of this revelation of character.' It is possible that it was taken while Carlyle was sitting to Watts for the original version of his portrait.

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