The Hall of Fame: Celebrities and History Makers
Victorians believed that portraits could communicate the character of great historical figures. The foundation of the National Portrait Gallery in 1856 gave physical form to this idea by showcasing ‘portraits of the most eminent persons’ to inspire a sense of national pride in its visitors. The Hall of Fame was the title given to George Frederic Watts’s series of over 50 painted portraits of influential male contemporaries. Watts gradually donated them to the Gallery to commemorate those cultural figures he felt encapsulated the spirit of the Victorian age. Meanwhile, the development of photography transformed the possibilities of who could have their portrait made and who could own a portrait, enabling people to collect affordable images of their own heroes.