Thomas Kerrich

1 portrait on display in Room 16 at the National Portrait Gallery

Thomas Kerrich, by Thomas Kerrich, 1774 - NPG 6531 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Thomas Kerrich

by Thomas Kerrich
chalk, 1774
17 in. x 11 3/4 in. (433 mm x 300 mm) uneven
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, 2000
Primary Collection
NPG 6531

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Sitterback to top

  • Thomas Kerrich (1748-1828), Cambridge University Librarian, antiquary and draughtsman. Sitter in 2 portraits, Artist associated with 10 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Thomas Kerrich (1748-1828), Cambridge University Librarian, antiquary and draughtsman. Artist associated with 10 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Drawing was popular among amateur artists. Sons of the gentry drew to improve their artistic judgement while for impoverished sons of clergymen, like the antiquarian Thomas Kerrich, it offered a possible career. Kerrich's childhood drawings were praised by William Hogarth but he was discouraged from taking up painting professionally and instead became Librarian at Cambridge University Library. His talent is clear from this strikingly unorthodox self-portrait. It was drawn in Italy when Kerrich was visiting Europe on a travel scholarship from the university between 1771 and 1774.

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Events of 1774back to top

Current affairs

Philanthropist and reformer John Howard is called before the House of Commons Select Committee to give evidence on the shocking conditions in prisons across the country. Young Tahitian Omai arrives in England after making contact with Captain James Cook on his second voyage. He is introduced into London Society by Joseph Banks and is much admired. Coercive or 'Intolerable' Acts are passed in response to the crisis in the American colonies.

Art and science

Philosopher and chemist Joseph Priestley isolates oxygen in the form of a gas. Artist Thomas Gainsborough moves from Bath to set up a studio in London. Royal Crescent, Bath, designed by John Wood the Younger, is completed. Methodist preacher John Wesley publishes his pamphlet Thoughts Upon Slavery which argues against the slave trade.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe publishes his romantic novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, bringing him an immediate European reputation. In retaliation for the Boston Tea Party, the port of Boston is closed under the first of the British government's Coercive Acts. Delegates from twelve American colonies meet in Philadelphia and agree not to import any goods from Britain. Death of Louis XV of France. Louis XVI succeeds.

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