Charles Dickens

1 portrait

Charles Dickens, by Ary Scheffer, 1855 - NPG 315 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Charles Dickens

by Ary Scheffer
oil on canvas, 1855
37 1/8 in. x 24 3/4 in. (943 mm x 629 mm)
Purchased, 1870
Primary Collection
NPG 315

Click on the links below to find out more:

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Ary Scheffer (1795-1858). Artist associated with 3 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Since it was first exhibited in 1856, Scheffer's portrait of Dickens has received a mixed response. At the time, all agreed that it was a fine picture but many, including Dickens himself, questioned its likeness. Over the following years, the portrait tended to be disregarded and, in the last few decades, has rarely been displayed. But recent conservation has confirmed its quality as a painting which deserves fresh appraisal. Dickens met Scheffer soon after he arrived in Paris in October 1855 on an extended visit. Scheffer - one of the leading artists working in France - introduced Dickens to many prominent Parisians and insisted on painting his portrait. Although Dickens greatly admired the artist, he found the repeated sittings tiresome, at a time when he was under intense pressure of work. As he wrote to John Forster, I can scarcely express how uneasy and unsettled it makes me to sit, sit, sit, with Little Dorrit on my mind. After further sittings he confessed that it does not look to me at all like, though he also allowed that it is always possible that I don't know my own face. It is certainly an idealised portrait, and for a number of Dickens' friends it failed to convince as an exact characterisation of him. But its importance was also acknowledged. As the Art Journal commented in 1856, it is something to be painted by so great a master and, to Dickens' pleasure, the picture was given pride of place at the Royal Academy exhibition. Whatever its flaws, it remains a portrait of the great novelist by an artist of international reputation and a fine record of their friendship.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 87
  • Ormond, Richard, Early Victorian Portraits, 1973, p. 138
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 178
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 20
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Charles Dickens: an exhibition to commemorate the centenary of his death, 1970 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from June-September 1970), p. 109 number 08

Subjects & Themesback to top

Tell us moreback to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your nameclose

If you tick permission to publish your name will appear above your contribution on our website.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.