1 of 3 portraits of Alfred Waterhouse
- Extended catalogue entry
© National Portrait Gallery, London
by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Oil on twill canvas, 1891
26 1/4 in. x 21 1/8 in. (665 mm x 536 mm)
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Inscriptionback to top
Signed and inscr. in brown paint top left-hand corner: L. Alma Tadema. / op. CCCX.
On reverse of canvas:
(a) faded canvas stamp: Prepared by /... SON.
(b) printed paper label stuck to canvas inscr.: Royal Academy Winter Exhibition 1913 / Name of Artist: Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema R.A. O.M / Title of work: Portrait of Alfred Waterhouse Esq R.A. / Name and Address of Owner: Mrs Alfred Waterhouse, Yattendon Court .
On stretcher, two painted inscr.:
(a) ALFRED WATERHOUSE R.A. / AGED 61.
(b) PAINTED BY / L. ALMA TADEMA R.A./1891.
On stretcher bar, printed paper label: DRAWING MATERIALS. / CHARLES ROBERSON / 99 Long Acre, LONDON and inscr. in ink: L. Alma Tadema Esq. R.A. / 17 Grove End Road.
On reverse of frame:
(a) printed paper label inscr.: Manchester / 639;
(b) label inscr. in red ink: Dolman at New Compton Street with number 24697 added by hand, and repeated on frame (frame built up and numbers no longer visible).
This portraitback to top
Waterhouses painted iconography is small: a profile by Arthur Stockdale Cope (1886); a presidential portrait by William Quiller Orchardson for the RIBA, London (c.1890); and, close in date, a private commission from Lawrence Alma Tadema (1891), now NPG 6213 (see All known portraits).
From the 1880s Alfred Waterhouse lived between his London home and offices at 8 New Cavendish Street, and Yattendon Court, the house he built himself near Newbury, Berkshire. The Alma-Tadema portrait hung at one of those addresses during his lifetime; it was certainly at Yattendon after his death in 1905.  The Waterhouses entertained regularly in the spring, and the Alma-Tademas belonged to their set of friends:
Through the spring of each year the house in New Cavendish Street was the setting for weekly dinner parties in candle-lit rooms where the guests included Hamo Thorneycroft[sic] the sculptor, Frank Dicksee, Alma Tadema and Edmund Gosse, whose wives were sisters, Mr Humphry Ward and Mrs Humphry Ward, James Bryce and his sister Julia Gaskell, Benjamin Jowett the Master of Balliol, as well as old family friends. 
From his earliest days as an art student to a few months before his death Alma-Tadema assigned numbers to each of his paintings. Accordingly his portrait of Waterhouse is inscribed CCCX, that is, no.310 in an oeuvre that eventually comprised 408 works. The gilt-pine frame was made by Alma-Tademas framemaker, R. Dolman & Son.  This image of the architect was widely publicized through halftone photographs, many of them reproducing highlights of exhibitions in the 1890s. 
Nevertheless the painting was untraced when V.G. Swanson published his Alma-Tadema catalogue raisonné in 1990.  It was consigned to auction at Bonhams by a descendant of the architect on 17 June 1993 (222), with an estimate of £3,5005,000; in the event the hammer price was much higher, £26,000, reflecting the desirability of this portrait for the National Portrait Gallerys collection.
Footnotesback to top
1) See RA Winter Exhibition label, 1913 under Inscriptions.
2) Cunningham & Waterhouse 1992, p.105. For Gosses visits to Yattendon see Charteris 1931, pp.115, 144.
3) See Dolman label under Inscriptions; and Simon 1996, p.178, no.94.
4) Cassells RA Pictures 1892, p.53; ILN, 30 Apr. 1892, Supplement Pictures from the RA, p.16; The Years Art 1894, facing p.167, plate entitled Selections from the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, Autumn exhibition, 1893. Alma-Tadema was the artist selected for two RIBA presidential portraits, of J.F. Whichcord (1882) and G. Aitchison (1900).
5) Swanson 1990, no.349.
Physical descriptionback to top
Half-length, seated to left, eyes to front, silvery hair, moustache and beard, hands clasped over patterned chairback, reddish background.
Conservationback to top
Provenanceback to top
The sitter, and by descent to D.B. Waterhouse; Bonhams, 17 June 1993 (201), purchased by Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox Ltd on behalf of the Trustees.
Exhibitionsback to top
Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy, London, 1892 (222).
Royal Manchester Institution, 1892 (332).
Autumn Exhibition, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, 1893 (330).
Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy, London, 1913 (161).
Reproductionsback to top
Cassells Royal Academy Pictures 1892, p.53 (halftone; and see note 4).
Swanson 1990, p.446.
Simon 1996, p.178, fig.163.