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5 Portraits in set:

Drawings by Walker Hodgson, 1891-95

These five drawings were the first examples of the artist’s work to enter the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.[1] A second batch of seven portraits was acquired in 1986 (NPG 5895–5901).[2] Together, these twelve works form part of a much larger series of portrait sketches by Walker Hodgson, dating from the first half of the 1890s. Each portrait is meticulously signed and dated by the artist and in all but one, the sitters have been identified. The majority were prominent figures within the Victorian art world – members of the Royal Academy and other leading institutions – while certain individuals were connected with literature and poetry.[3] There are seventy-four known portraits in the sequence.[4]

Very little is known about Hodgson (b. 1864, d. after 1923), and he does not feature in the literature on late nineteenth-century artists. However, unpublished family research reveals that the young graphic artist arrived in London from Newcastle upon Tyne in 1889: ‘During Walker’s first year in London he was commissioned by a publisher to produce an album of portraits of artists whose paintings had been exhibited at the Royal Academy in the 1880s. It was entitled Great Celebrities in the World of Art.’[5] Records of this commission remain untraced and the title of the publication for which the drawings were intended has not been confirmed. Yet it is unlikely that Hodgson would have embarked upon such an ambitious project, with a concentration of work in the years 1891 and 1892, without first securing a deal of this sort. Similarly, it seems improbable that such prominent figures, although supposedly paid three guineas for the privilege, would have provided sittings in their studios for an unknown artist without the assurance that their portraits were destined for publication.[6] Christopher Wood proposes that the vignette format and linear draughtsmanship of the series suggest that the artist was working to the engraver’s specifications from the outset. Parallel lines and cross-hatching have been employed throughout.[7] Furthermore, the confident yet sketchily indicated depictions imply that the artist was working under pressure to capture an effective likeness in a short period of time.

At a private viewing day at the Royal Academy in 1892, a number of the finished portraits were on display. William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and Oscar Wilde were apparently in attendance.[8] In the same year, Hodgson announced that the number of works included in the sequence would be increased to one hundred. Many of the sitters were said to be displeased by this and a number wrote letters of objection to the artist.[9] Although Hodgson continued to produce sketches in the following years, this response may have contributed towards the ultimate failure of the venture.

Hodgson was successful in publishing at least four of his later drawings, however. The portraits of poets Christina Rossetti, Jean Ingelow, H.A. Dobson and Lewis Morris, executed in 1894 and 1895, illustrated an article in Cassell’s Family Magazine.[10] This suggests that the series of drawings may initially have been intended for publication across a range of different articles, in a periodical or newspaper of the day. It is possible that Cassell’s commissioned the entire sequence: however, although the works in NPG 4041(1–5) are similar in appearance, they are not of the standardized format one would expect of images illustrating a series of linked articles in a single journal or magazine. There are wide variations in pose, the application of wash, and the number of subsidiary elements included within the compositions. For example, Ford Madox Brown’s portrait (NPG 4041(4)) contains an additional profile view of the artist in the bottom left-hand corner and a decorative nameplate, presumably designed by Hodgson, accompanies the depiction of Mrs Molesworth (NPG 4041(3)). It is possible that these differences reflect a conscious attempt by the artist to make his sketches attractive to a range of publications.


The portraits, listed alphabetically, are as follows:

4041(5) Sir Frank Brangwyn (1867–1956)
4041(4) Ford Madox Brown (1821–1893)
4041(1) Myles Birket Foster (1825–1899)
4041(2) William McTaggart (1835–1899)
4041(3) Mary Louisa Molesworth (1839–1921)

Sitters in Hodgson’s series, outside the collection:

5898 Laura, Lady Alma-Tadema (1852–1909)
5897 Sir Wyke Bayliss (1835–1906)
5896 Eden Upton Eddis (1812–1901)
5895 Edwin Hayes (1819–1904)
5901 George Henry Hine (1811–1895)
5899 William Logsdail (1859–1944)
5900 William Luson Thomas (1830–1900)

Sitters in Hodgson’s series outside the NPG, with date of execution of drawing (this list dates from 1934: the majority of portraits are now unlocated and it is not possible to confirm that they still exist):

Helen Mary Elizabeth Allingham (1848–1926); 3 December 1891
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912); 21 November 1891
Sir Arthur William Blomfield (1829–1899); 2 May 1982
George Henry Boughton (1833–1905); 5 November 1891
John Bagnold Burgess (1829–1897); 21 June 1892
Sir Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898); October 1891
Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833–1898); 9 May 1892
George Vicat Cole (1833–1893); 25 May 1892
John Collier (1850–1934); 9 November 1891
Ernest Crofts (1847–1911); 5 May 1892
Sir Eyre Crowe (1824–1910); 14 May 1892
Frank Dadd (1851–1929); May 1892
Henry William Banks Davis (1833–1914); 12 January 1892
Sir Francis Bernard Dicksee (1853–1928); 22 December 1891
(Henry) Austin Dobson (1840–1921); 2 April 1894
Sir Alfred Edward East (1849–1913); 24 April 1895
Thomas Faed (1826–1900); 18 May 1892
Edward Onslow Ford (1852–1901); 18 January 1892
Frederick Goodall (1822–1904); 13 December 1891
Maude Goodman (1860–1938); April 1892
Charles Green (1840–1898); 17 May 1892
Sir Francis Seymour Haden (1818–1910); 6 July 1892
Sydney Prior Hall (1842–1922); 12 May 1892
Henry Holiday (1839–1927); 15 April 1892
James Clarke Hook (1819–1907); 7 October 1891
John Calcott Horsley (1817–1903); 3 March 1892
Jean Ingelow (1820–1897); 19 February 1894
Louise Jopling-Rowe (1843–1933); 26 September 1891
Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923); 9 October 1891
Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton (1830–1896); 20 May 1892
Henry Le Jeune (1819–1904); 11 December 1891
Sir James Dromgole Linton (1840–1916); 2 January 1892
William Ewart Lockhart (1846–1900); 26 December 1891
John Seymour Lucas (1849–1923); 26 April 1892
Madeline Marrable (1833–1916); 4 May 1892
Mortimer Menpes (1855–1938); 26 January 1892
Albert Moore (1841–1893); February 1892
Henry Moore (1831–1895); 10 May 1892
Sir Lewis Morris (1833–1907); 19 March 1894
Philip Richard Morris (1838–1902); 4 December 1891
William Quiller Orchardson (1832–1910); 23 November 1891
James Orrock (1829–1913); 21 May 1892
Alfred William Parsons (1847–1920); 4 January 1892
Sir Harry Bodkin Poland (1829–1928); July 1894
Edward John Poynter (1836–1919); 28 April 1892
Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838–1904); 17 December 1891
Sir George Reid (1841–1913); 19 March 1892
Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830–1894); 15 February 1894
Herbert Gustave Carmichael Schmalz (1856–1935); 5 May 1892
Arthur Severn (1842–1931); 31 May 1892
George Adolphus Storey (1834–1919); 22 October 1891
William Hamo Thornycroft (1850–1925); 1 October 1891
George Tinworth (1843–1913); 8 April 1892
Lucy Bethia Walford (1845–1915); 25 April 1895
Henrietta Mary Ada Ward (1832–1924); 17 November 1891
Henrietta Mary Ada Ward (1832–1924); 25 February 1892
Sir Leslie Ward (1851–1922); 21 November 1891
George Frederic Watts (1817–1904); 1891
Thomas Woolner (1825–1892); 14 January 1892
William Lionel Wyllie (1851–1931); September 1891
William Frederick Yeames (1835–1918); 18 May 1892
Unidentified sitter; 20 May 1892

Footnotesback to top

1) Christie’s, 6 Dec. 1957 (7). The dealers, Appleby Brothers, were based at 27 William IV Street, Trafalgar Square and the sketches were bought for £10 10s; see NPG Report of the Trustees 1957–8, p.16. Sixty-nine drawings from the sequence (including these five) had been offered for sale to the NPG by the Personal Service League in Apr. 1934 but rejected by the Trustees.
2) Phillips, 6 Oct. 1986 (107, 108, 112, 113, 114, 117, 188) for £70. In 1987, eight more drawings from the series were offered for sale to the NPG but rejected. Another three were offered in 1991 and were also rejected: NPG NoA (W.W. Hodgson).
3) [Wood] 1984, Introduction.
4) Excluding the NPG drawings, the majority of the portraits are in private locations or are now untraced. A list detailing sitters and portraits in the series is preserved in NPG RP 4041(1–5): it dates from 1934, when 69 drawings were initially offered to the NPG.
5) Note by W. Kemp (née Hodgson), dated 2007, NPG NoA (W.W. Hodgson). ‘This series is seemingly the pinnacle of Hodgson’s artistic output. Always eccentrically dressed, he became something of a tramp in his old age. The date and place of his death are unrecorded.’
6) Note by W. Kemp, 2007, NPG NoA (W.W. Hodgson). The same source records that Hodgson ‘arrived in London in 1889 with a handful of introductions’. In a similar manner, the artist may have provided a letter from an editor or publisher, in order to secure his potential subjects.
7) [Wood] 1984, Introduction.
8) Note by W. Kemp, 2007, NPG NoA (W.W. Hodgson); there is no known record of this event in the archive at the RA.
9) Note by W. Kemp, 2007, NPG NoA (W.W. Hodgson).
10) Japp 1895.

Referencesback to top

Japp 1895
Japp, A.H., ‘Two Pairs of Modern Poets’, Cassell’s Family Magazine, May 1895, p.223–6.

[Wood] 1984
[Wood, C., intro.,] A Fraternity of Artists: A Set of Sixty-two Portraits of Late Victorian Artists, by Walker Hodgson, exh. leaflet, Christopher Wood Gallery, London, 1984.

List Thumbnail

Sir Frank Brangwyn, by (William) Walker Hodgson - NPG 4041(5)

Sir Frank Brangwyn

by (William) Walker Hodgson
pencil and wash, 1892
NPG 4041(5)

Mary Louisa Molesworth, by (William) Walker Hodgson - NPG 4041(3)

Mary Louisa Molesworth

by (William) Walker Hodgson
pencil and black wash, 1895
NPG 4041(3)