Algernon Charles Swinburne

1 portrait on display in Room 28 at the National Portrait Gallery

Algernon Charles Swinburne, by Carlo Pellegrini, published in Vanity Fair 21 November 1874 - NPG 2216 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Algernon Charles Swinburne

by Carlo Pellegrini
watercolour, published in Vanity Fair 21 November 1874
12 in. x 7 in. (305 mm x 178 mm)
Purchased, 1928
Primary Collection
NPG 2216


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  • Carlo Pellegrini (1839-1889), 'Ape'; caricaturist. Artist associated with 482 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.

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Swinburne's portrait featured in the 21 November 1874 Vanity Fair magazine's 'Men of The Day', with the accompanying article praising his poetic talent: 'For imagination, for variety and force of fleshy images, and for agility and ingenuity in the ordering of the bits of coloured glass of the poetic kaleidoscope.' It described his personality as 'nervous, excitable, explosive, rebellious, graphic, and ready in revolt against all revealed religions and moralities.' Swinburne's biographer Edmund Gosse believed this watercolour to be 'the best surviving record of Swinburne's general aspect and attitude.'

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Events of 1874back to top

Current affairs

Disraeli becomes Prime Minister for the second time, winning the general election and giving the Conservative party its first absolute majority since the 1840s. Professional opportunities for women develop, with the opening of the London School of Economics to women, the foundation of the London School of Medicine for Women and the Women's Protective and Provident League.

Art and science

The Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc., including Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro organise an exhibition in Paris. Art critic Louis Leroy gives the group its name, criticising Monet's Impression, Sunrise for being merely an unfinished 'impression'. Impressionism becomes recognisable for techniques such as short, broken brushstrokes barely conveying forms, pure unblended colours, and an emphasis on the effects of light.

International

Britain annexes the Gold Coast, the region on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, now the independent nation of Ghana, following the second Ashanti war. The Treaty of Fomena secured massive financial reparations for the British, and strengthened their hold on the prosperous resources and trade routes in the regions. However, weakening the Ashanti tribe greatly destabilised the area.

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