George Meredith

1 portrait of George Meredith

George Meredith, by Theodore Spicer-Simson, 1908 - NPG 1583 - Photograph © National Portrait Gallery, London

Photograph © National Portrait Gallery, London

George Meredith

by Theodore Spicer-Simson
bronze medallion, 1908
4 1/2 in. (114 mm) diameter
Purchased through Roger Fry, 1910
Primary Collection
NPG 1583

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This medal, the first of many by Theodore Spicer-Simpson to enter the Gallery's collection, was purchased from him for 5 guineas in 1910 with encouragement from Roger Fry, then Editor of the Burlington Magazine. Meredith was reluctant to provide sittings for this medallion and agreed only after seeing a sketch for the design, with the assurance that it would not be produced in large numbers. The result is this delicate profile in shallow relief. Spicer-Simson is credited for continuing the tradition of cast medal-making into the twentieth century. He exploits this technique here, in order to depict individual facial hairs and evoke the very texture of the sitter's skin. He recalled the origins of this medal in his reminiscences, A Collector of Characters (posthumously published, 1962): 'Christmastime brought us to England in 1908. While there the Society of Authors requested me to do the portrait of George Meredith. He refused to sit.… I then asked Meredith's daughter, Mrs Sturgis. She said there might be only one way of succeeding, which would be to 'spring it on Father.' So she invited me to lunch at her home near Box Hill and after the meal we drove over in a carriage and pair.… Then Mrs Sturgis told her father he should sit for me. I said, 'Mr Meredith, I have prepared something. If you do not like it, I will destroy it before your eyes. Otherwise I hope you will sit.' After looking at the sketch and learning that it would not be produced by the hundreds, he consented. We parted good friends.'

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