Sir Frank Swettenham

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

Sir Frank Swettenham, by John Singer Sargent, 1904 - NPG 4837 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Frank Swettenham

by John Singer Sargent
oil on canvas, 1904
67 1/4 in. x 43 1/2 in. (1708 mm x 1105 mm)
Bequeathed by Sir Frank Swettenham, 1971
Primary Collection
NPG 4837

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  • John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Portrait and landscape painter and muralist. Artist associated with 72 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.

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A portrait of the colonial administrator Sir Frank Swettenham was commissioned in 1903 from the leading society portraitist of the time, the American artist John Singer Sargent, by the Malay Straits Association of London. This portrait of Swettenham by Sargent began as a copy of the original portrait by one of Sargent's copyists but Sargent took over the painting and Swettenham gave fresh sittings. He is shown surrounded by accessories evoking his Far Eastern career: a huge globe just visible in the top left-hand corner hovers over a chair draped with the magnificent Malayan brocades that he collected. Swettenham wears his white uniform and adopts an elegant, Van Dyckian pose, leaning against the chair and gripping it with his right hand, his clawlike fingers providing a note of tension.

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