The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Henry Cavendish (1731-1810), Physicist

Scientist, 1st son of Lord Charles Cavendish (3rd son of the 2nd Duke of Devonshire); led a reclusive life of great simplicity devoted to experimental science; produced a paper on ‘Factitious Airs’ 1766; in 1777-78 he concluded that water was a combination of oxygen and hydrogen; after his paper on ‘Experiments on Air’ 1784, the originality of his work was needlessly disputed; he subsequently measured the density of the Earth.

‘I ... recollect the shrill cry he uttered as he shuffled quickly from room to room, seeming to be annoyed if looked at, but sometimes approaching to hear what was passing among others. His face was intelligent and mild, though, from the nervous irritation which he seemed to feel, the expression could hardly be called calm. It is not likely that he ever should have been induced to sit for his picture ... His dress was of the oldest fashion, a greyish green coat and waistcoat, with flaps, a small cocked hat, and the hair dressed like a wig (which possibly it was) with a thick clubbed tail. His walk was quick and uneasy ...’ (Lord Brougham, 1845).

This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.