Late Victorian Britain: Cultural Pioneers

6 December 2016 - 1 December 2017

Room 28 wall-case display


Elma Stuart By Sir Hubert von Herkomer watercolour, 1893 NPG 7028
Elma Stuart
By Sir Hubert von Herkomer
watercolour, 1893
NPG 7028

Offering a counterpoint to the celebrated fashion for grand ‘swagger’ portraits at the turn of the nineteenth century, this display highlights the parallel growth in taste for small, highly detailed, cabinet-sized portraits. These offered a more intimately scaled, close-up view of prominent figures of the age. Presenting an array of individuals, some still well known, and others who have faded from public memory, the display suggests the broader spectrum of cultural activity in Britain towards the end of the Victorian period and into the reign of King Edward VII.

This display focuses on the circumstances in which the works were painted, including the relationship between the sitter, the artist and their original owners, and the purpose for which they were made. It also reveals how love, friendship and nostalgic affection were often the common themes that inspired this form of portrait production. Painted in oil and watercolour and ranging from portrait studies to more finished works, the selection of images represents a range of artists, writers, poets, historians and cultural advocates. Together these works showcase the exceptional ability of the Victorian artists involved to create powerful portraits on a diminutive scale.

See all the works featured in this display

Cultural pioneers

© The National Portrait Gallery, London

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