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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Poet, critic and lexicographer

Johnson’s portraiture has been surveyed by L. F. Powell, ‘The Portraits of Johnson’ in Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill & E. F. Powell, IV, pp 447-64; by David Piper, ‘The Development of the British Literary Portrait up to Samuel Johnson’, Proc. of the British Academy, 1968, pp 71-72; H. W. Liebert, 'Portraits of the Author: Lifetime Likenesses of Samuel Johnson', English Portraits of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, 1974, pp 47-70, and by K. K. Yung in Johnson, Arts Council, 1984.

1756-57
Painting by Joshua Reynolds, see NPG 1597.

1769
Painting by Joshua Reynolds, see NPG 1445.

1769
Drawing, probably by John Taylor, profile. Pembroke College, Oxford. Inscribed: Done by permission of Dr Sam Johnson himself for the Revd H. Bright 1769 and The head of Dr Johnson from a seal of the Revd G. Strahan. Apparently ‘the original drawing’ engraved by P. Lamborn in May 1772 (illus. Cambridge Bibliographical Soc., III, 1962, p 311) and by I. Taylor. Taylor made two drawings of Johnson at Oxford, one of which was for Sir Robert Chambers who went to India in 1773 (J. T. Smith, A Book for a Rainy Day, ed. W. Whitten, 1905, pp 318-19).

1775?
Painting by Joshua Reynolds, half length, holding a book close to his eyes. Loren R. Rothschild, California (D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1016). Engraved J. Hall 1787. The least satisfactory of Reynolds’s portraits of Johnson. The dating is uncertain; J. Northcote, The Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1819, II, pp 3-4, gave 1775, but a copy of Hall’s engraving in the British Museum (1838.7.14.29) is inscribed ‘the head was painted by Sir Joshua from memory after the death of the Doctor’.
An unfinished version is in the Hyde Collection, inscribed as made by Gilbert Stuart for Johnson's friend William Bowles (illus. G. Austin ed., Four Oaks Library, 1967, f.p.51). Miniature copies by William Essex exhibited RA 1846 (738) and RA 1860 (858), the latter presumably that dated 1859 (illus. Connoisseur, CCII, 1979, p 140).

1777-84
Painting by James Barry, Distribution of Premiums in the Society of Arts, part of the Progress of Human Culture. Royal Society of Arts, London. See NPG 1185.

1777
Bust by Joseph Nollekens, see NPG 996.

1778-80
Painting by James Barry, see NPG 1185.

1778
Painting by Joshua Reynolds, half length. Tate Gallery (N887; D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1014). Painted for Henry Thrale’s library at Streatham. Engraved W. Doughty 1779.
Several versions are recorded; one from the collection of Topham Beauclerk is in a private English collection (D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1015); three are at Pembroke College, Oxford (Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges and City and County of Oxford, III, pp 243-44), others at Gunby Hall, and in the Hyde Collection. Reduced versions include examples at Dunvegan Castle and formerly with Sir Russell Brain.
A copy by E. F. Burney sold Sotheby’s, 6 March 1940, lot 22 (see A. Ribeiro ed., The Letters of Dr Charles Burney, I, 1751-1784, 1991, I, pp 290-91n17). A miniature copy by W. Hatfield in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (dated 1780) and another, unattributed, sold Christie’s, 27 March 1985, lot 312.
A version, showing a stick in the left hand, with Courage Ltd, has been unnecessarily attributed to Opie. A ‘Sketch in chalks from the life, by Frye’, sold Christie’s, 5 June 1888, lot 82, derived from this type (Scharf sketch, NPG archive).

1782
Drawn and etched by Thomas Trotter, profile head, ‘from the Life'. Fanny Burney thought the print ‘as like him as it can look’ (New Light on Dr Johnson, ed. F. W. Hilles, 1959, p 330). Originally intended as the frontispiece for Kearsley’s Beauties of Samuel Johnson, 1782, but rejected by George Steevens as 'a very ugly head' (J. T. Smith, Nollekens and his Times, ed. W. Whitten, 1920, I, p 127). Subsequently used by Flaxman in 1784, see below.

A drawing, probably after Trotter’s etching, with Canon Henry Blagden, Oxford, in 1909 (illus. A. M. Broadley, Johnson and Mrs Thrale, 1910, f.p.14), apparently that sold Bonham’s, 28 November 1990, lot 13, as by Blaydon.

Drawing by Thomas Trotter, half-length length seated. Hyde Collection (illus. B. Redford ed., The Letters of Samuel Johnson, IV, front.) Etched by Trotter 1786, from the original Drawing in the possession of Mr John Simco, taken from the life, a Short time before his decease, and Etched by T. Trotter (2nd ed. of Kearsley’s Beauties of Samuel Johnson). Trotter engraved a slightly larger plate from what appears to be the same drawing in 1792, From an original drawing by T. Trotter, in the Possession of the Revd Dr Farmer.
This or another drawing 'from the life' exhibited by Trotter RA 1785 (565). Trotter’s 1786 engraving of Dr Johnson in his travelling dress appears to derive from it, see below.
Johnson sat twice to Trotter ‘at Mr Kearsley’s request’ (Beauties of Samuel Johnson, 1797 ed., pp XCIII, XCIX).

Drawing by J. Harding, half length, etched by Trotter 1782 (as Drawn from the Life by J. Harding). Closely resembling the Trotter drawing of 1782.

Painting by Johan Zoffany, perhaps unfinished. The Morning Herald, 6 January 1783, announced Johnson had sat twice to him; Johnson recorded an appointment with ‘Zaftanie’ on 31 December 1782 (Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill & E. F. Powell, IV, p 454) but Zoffany set out for India on 17 January 1783 (see W. T. Whitley, Artists and their Friends in England 1700-1799, 1928, II, pp 17-18).

(A so-called Zoffany allegedly of Johnson, half-length, leaning on his left hand, an open book before him, sold Christie's, 26 February 1868, lot 115).

1783-84
Painting by John Opie, see NPG 1302.

1783
Painting by Frances Reynolds. On 20 August 1783 Johnson said the portrait was finished and was to be engraved (B. Redford, ed., The Letters of Samuel Johnson, III, p 278n1; IV, pp 186-88). It was not well received; in 1819 it was in the collection of John Hatsell in London (J. Northcote, The Life of Sir Johsua Reynolds, 1819, II, p 159).
Generally identified, but without proof, as the portrait in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo N.Y., which is comparable with the disputed Reynolds 1775 pattern, but shows Johnson holding a leather-bound book. A similar portrait, with Courage Ltd, is possibly by Frances Reynolds, although it bears a label: by the niece of Sir Josh. Reynolds [18]62 T. W. Guillod.

1784
Drawing by James Roberts, three-quarter length seated. On loan to Pembroke College, Oxford (illus. Burlington Magazine, LI, 1927, pp 266-67). A carbon copy also in Pembroke College (Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges and City and County of Oxford, III, pp 244-45). Said to have been taken by Roberts for Miss Adams, daughter of Dr William Adams whom Johnson visited in 1784.

Wedgwood medallion by John Flaxman, evidently based on Trotter’s etching of 1782 (illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 199). Flaxman's invoice to Wedgwood dated 3 February 1784 (R. Reilly, Wedgwood Jasper, 1994, p 340). A wax model illus. D. R. Reilly, Portrait Waxes, 1953, fig.40. A comparable but later wax medallion by William Wyon, sold Sotheby’s, Sussex, 19-27 July 1988, lot 1901.

A second Wedgwood medallion portrait of Johnson, the likeness not striking, listed in 1788 (illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 199). R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1968 ed., p 211, said that James Hoskins had supplied Wedgwood with a bust of Johnson in 1775.

c.1784
Unattributed painting, half length. James P. Magill Library, Haverford College, Haverford PA (illus. Johnson, Arts Council, 1984, no.103). The likeness is unmistakable and closely resembles the death mask. An attribution to Opie cannot be dismissed, although Boswell listed only one portrait of Johnson by him (Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill & E. F. Powell, IV, 421n2). Versions sold Christie’s, 14 April 1864 (343, unattributed and described as ‘copied from the portrait in the Painted Hall at Greenwich’ [presumably a mistaken reference to Barry’s painting in the Society of Arts, see NPG 1185]); and in private collections in Detroit 1969 (illus. Connoisseur, CIII, 1939, p 203), and London 1953. A reduced copy on copper in the Johnson's Birthplace Museum, Lichfield.

Posthumous
1784
Death mask, see NPG 4685.

1785
Drawn and engraved by Francesco Bartolozzi, profile. A similar engraving from an original drawing published 15 November 1786 by W. N. Gardiner, and a third by Freeman was published 1813 from an original drawing by Bartolozzi. A portrait at the Johnson Birthplace Museum, Lichfield, apparently copied from the Bartolozzi, has needlessly been attributed to William Hoare. A red wax impression from an intaglio (NPG reserve collection, D7040) appears to derive from the Bartolozzi design.

1786
Engraving by T. Trotter, whole length walking, Dr Johnson in his Travelling Dress as described in Boswells Tour, Drawn from the Life and Engrav’d by T. Trotter (illus. Johnson, Arts Council, 1984, no.76). A later derivative plate by E. Finden 1835, whole length, left hand raised, From an Original Painting in the possession of Mr Archdeacon Cambridge.

1790
‘Proof from gem’ by Edward Burch, exhibited RA 1790 (297).

1793
Marble bust by Richard Westmacott sr. Lichfield Cathedral, placed near Westmacott’s bust of David Garrick. The likeness is not convincing, but the intended identity is beyond dispute. Another is in the Royal Collection (with a companion bust of Garrick).

1796
Marble statue by John Bacon sr. St Paul's Cathedral, London (illus. Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill & E. F. Powell, IV, f.p.469). A bust-length copy in Pembroke College, Oxford (Mrs R. L. Poole, Catalogue of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges and City and County of Oxford, III, p 245 as Nollekens). A plaster cast was exhibited Crystal Palace (Samuel Phillips, The Portrait Gallery of the Crystal Palace, 1854, no. 425a). A chalk study for the pose, attributed to Bacon, sold Sotheby's, 13 November 1997, lot 14.

1812-26
Engraved gem by James Wicksteed, exhibited RA 1812 (644), and intaglios by James Wicksteed, exhibited RA 1822 (954), and by C .H. Weigall, exhibited RA 1826 (933).

Later busts include those by John Woodley 1842 (marble, sold Sotheby's, 2 July 1971, lot 82, the head close to the Nollekens type); by Augustus Saint-Gaudens 1874 (plaster; Berger collection, Denver, Colorado); by J. E. Boehm 1881, see NPG 621 and 621a, and an undated marble, with tightly curled wig and buttoned coat (Sotheby’s, 31 October 1985, lot 289; a related small bronze sold Sotheby’s, 19 November 1996, lot 270).

Later statues include those by R. C. Lucas 1838 (Lichfield market place) and by Percy Fitzgerald 1910 (St Clement Danes, London; see Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill & E. F. Powell, IV, p 472: ‘it should be removed’; a modello in the Hyde Collection).

Doubtful Portraits
Alleged miniatures by Samuel Shelley, exhibited Royal House of Guelph, New Gallery, London, 1891 (733) lent J. L. G. Mowatt, and by John Smart jr. (G. C. Williamson, The History of Portrait Miniatures, 1904, II, p 4). A portrait attributed to Reynolds in the Johnson Birthplace Museum, Lichfield (engraved G. Zobel).



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.