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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Philip William ('Phil') May (1864-1903), Cartoonist and silhouette artist

By other artists
Posthumous portraits
Undated photographs

Self-portraitsback to top

Pen and ink drawing; see NPG 3038.
This is the primary portrait for May.

Self-portrait caricatures
Unquantifiable, too numerous to list, many in private collections. At NPG there are:
silhouette drawing on glass; see NPG 3941.
chalk drawing; see NPG 2661.
pencil drawing; see NPG 4149, which also discusses self-portrait caricatures in other public collections.

By other artistsback to top

Etching by unidentified engraver illustrating a Kinsmen Club menu, inscr. ‘1883’, with John Bull; NPG D9854, from the collection of Edmund Gosse. [1]

Black crayon drawing by Sir William Rothenstein, whole-length to right, seated, sketching; untraced; Sotheby’s, 26 Feb. 2003 (12, ill.).

Chalk, pen and ink caricature drawing by Fred Hall, signed and dated 1893, whole-length to right, profile to right, standing, wearing a straw boater, smoking a cigar and holding a pen; untraced. Repr. Daily Sketch, 6 Dec. 1893, p.312

Pen and ink caricature drawing by Max Beerbohm, whole-length, profile to left, with cigar and glass; untraced. Ref. Hart-Davis 1972, p.100, no.1024; repr. Pall Mall Budget,7 June 1894; and Beerbohm 1958, no.3.

Watercolour drawing by Sir Leslie Ward (‘Spy’), whole-length, seated to left with homburg and cigar; untraced; Bonhams, 15 June 1994 (175).
Repr. Vanity Fair, 21 Feb. 1895; copies MEPL, London, 10077321; and Getty Archive, 50675809.[2]
Closely based on the ‘Spy’ profile is the head-and-shoulders profile to left repr. A Phil May Picture Book (publ. Pall Mall Magazine), 1903, cover; copy British Cartoon Archive, U. of Kent.

Pencil drawing by Percy Frederick Spence; see NPG 1184a.

Pen and wash drawing by Frank Brangwyn, with Brangwyn in a cab; untraced. Exh. Brangwyn, RA, London, 1952 (coll. Count William de Belleroche). Perhaps connected with drawing of Phil and Lilian May and Frank Brangwyn, 1895, publ. The Lamp, vol.27, 1903, p.207.

Watercolour caricature drawing by Bernard Partridge; untraced; Sotheby’s, 8 Dec. 2005 (251).

Portraits by Charles Dana Gibson, Frank W. Richards, C.J. Taylor and Hy. Mayer in American periodicals Scribner’s, Bookman and Critic; for publication details see Lane & Browne 1906, p.980.

Pastel drawing by Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples; see NPG 1659.

Caricature sketch by Bernard Partridge, on back of the menu of the last Punch dinner in the old dining room at 10 Bouverie Street; Punch Archive. Exh. Punch 150th Anniversary, RFH, London, 1991 (40, not ill., no further details).

Caricature by Edward Tennyson Reed, initialled, whole-length, seated drawing as an imaginary creature with long body, clawed feet; untraced. Publ. Reed 1898, no.51 (captioned 'The Phil').

Oil on cardboard sketch by James Jebusa Shannon, three-quarter-length, standing to left; NLA, Canberra, NK 814. Preparatory to painting below.

Pen and ink drawing by Arthur Pelham Collins; see NPG 2751.

exh. 1901
Watercolour caricature drawing by Max Beerbohm, whole-length, in top hat and fur-trimmed coat; untraced; Sotheby’s, 11/12 Nov. 1976 (614). Exh. Carfax G., London, 1901; ref. Hart-Davis 1972, p.100, no.1024.

Pen and ink and watercolour caricature drawing by Lance Thackeray, design for invitation card for London Sketch Club (14 Mar. 1902), standing at right edge of group; untraced; photograph NPG NoS (P. May). Repr. Cuppleditch 1978, p.37. For Phil May and the Sketch Club see also ‘Posthumous portraits, 1921’ below.

exh. 1902
Oil on canvas by James Jebusa Shannon, three-quarter-length to left in riding clothes; coll. Tate, NO3825. Exh. RA 1902 (269); repr. Thorpe 1932, p.64. [3]

Posthumous portraitsback to top

Bronze medallion by Edward Caldwell Spruce, head, three-quarters to left, in stone tablet mounted on birthplace, Leeds, 1910; remounted in a wood frame and presented by public subscription 1917 to Leeds CAG, 267/17. Repr. ‘Studio Talk – Leeds’, Studio, vol.50, Aug. 1910, p.229.

Screenprint by unidentified artist, London Sketch Club Golden Jubilee invitation card, second from left among 14 silhouette profiles; copy NPG D3782.

Photographsback to top

Photograph by unidentified photographer, aged 14, head-and-shoulders to right; coll. May family. Repr. Thorpe 1932, p.21.

Photograph by unidentified photographer, whole-length, standing, with Lilian May, in Australia; NLA, Canberra, 2855673.

publ. 1891
Photograph by unidentified photographer, three-quarter-length, seated to left at drawing board; repr. Review of Reviews 1891, p.451.

Photograph by unidentified photographer, three-quarter-length, seated astride chair, sketching; NLA, Canberra, 23480808 (signed and dated ‘Phil May 92’). Repr. (another print) Bradshaw 1958, facing p.56; and Cuppleditch 1981, p.6.

Photograph by Elliott & Fry, half-length, seated to left at desk, wearing houndstooth check suit and wing collar; repr. Cuppleditch 1981, p.6; and Thorpe 1932, frontispiece.
The best photograph of Phil May in his prime. [4]

Photograph by Sarony & Co., Scarborough, dated ‘94’, three-quarter-length, standing, head to left; repr. as halftone The Year’s Art 1895, facing p.60.

Photograph by unidentified photographer of members of the ‘Punch Table’ dining, profile to left, on right of group; ?Punch Archives; repr. Cuppleditch 1981, p.70.

publ. 1897
Photograph by Henry Van der Weyde, head-and-shoulders, wearing wing collar; repr. May [1904], frontispiece; Cuppleditch 1981, frontispiece; wood-engr. by unidentified engraver repr. Graphic, 9 Jan. 1897, p.42. The Van der Weyde photo is the basis for the self-portrait caricature vignette repr. Thorpe 1948, title page (copy British Cartoon Archive, U. of Kent).

Photographs by Alexander Bassano, in check suit, four known poses:
(a) glass neg., half-length, head slightly to right; NPG x4228.
(b) glass neg., half-length, head to left; NPG x4229.
(c) glass neg., three-quarter-length, standing, left hand in pocket; NPG x4230.
(d) glass neg., nearly whole-length, seated, legs crossed; NPG x4231.

Photograph by unidentified photographer, ‘Phil May signing the constitution of the London Sketch Club’, in centre of group of three; repr. Thorpe 1932, p.97.

reg. 1898
Photographs by A. Gay, on horseback, four known poses:
(a) whole-length, profile to right.
(b) whole-length, profile to left.
(c) whole-length, profile to right, head turned to viewer.
(d) whole-length, profile to right, right hand on hip.
Publ. by Alfred Ellis; reg. for copyright 1898 July 19 and 27: National Archives (COPY 1/142).

Photographs by Alexander Corbett, in riding clothes in studio, seven known poses:
(a) cabinet card, half-length, full-face, eyes to left, no hat; V&A, London, E.498-1995.
(b) whole-length to left, right arm resting on right leg on chair, holding hat.
(c) whole-length, full-face, wearing hat, holding cigar.
(d) half-length to left, wearing hat, leaning on chairback.
(e) cabinet card, whole-length, slightly to left, right hand on hip, wearing hat; V&A, London, E.718-1995.
(f) whole-length, profile to right, head to viewer, wearing hat.
(g) whole-length, back view, head in profile to left, wearing hat.
Publ. by Alfred Ellis; reg. for copyright 1898 August 2: National Archives (COPY 1/143).

Silver bromide print on postcard by Foulsham and Banfield, publ. by Rotary Photographic Series, at least two poses:
(a) three-quarter-length, head to right, seated with cigar and dog Mr Blathers; prints colls NPG Ax160440; and The Rob Dickins Coll., Watts G., Compton, COMWG2008.338 and COMWG2008.339. Repr. Bills & Webb 2007, no.154; Thorpe 1932, p.48; Cuppleditch 1981; Maas 1984, p.140; Houfe 2002, frontispiece; and MEPL, London, 10077320 and 10142672.
(b) head-and-shoulders, full-face in oval; repr. ILN (obits), 15 Aug. 1903, p.230.

Photograph by unidentified photographer, three-quarter-length to left, seated, pen/pencil poised over sketchbook; repr. on Phillips Guinea Gold Cigarettes card (coll. New York PL, Digital Gallery ID 1626032).

Undated photographsback to top

Three photographs by unidentified photographer, at Rowsley House (No.3 The Studios), Holland Park Road, in studio and with Lilian May, for unidentified magazine article, late 1890s; repr. Cuppleditch 1981, p.85; and Dakers 1999, p.230.

Photograph (no details) acquired from Savage Club; priv. coll, 1990. See NPG NoS (P. May). [5]

1) If by Phil May this would be his only known etching.
2) ‘“Spy’s” Vanity Fair portrait (February 21, 1895) gives a very true impression of May as he was at the height of his fame. In Jimmy Glover, his Book (Methuen, 1911), is reproduced a self-portrait of May done at Leeds in 1880, in which he is shown wearing a similar bowler hat and long overcoat.’ Thorpe 1932, p.62. This self-portrait is also cited in Lucas 1912.
3) ‘“The Phil May Esq”’ (269) is the most terribly frank piece of portraiture that has been seen since a celebrated picture which Mr Sargent showed a couple of years ago. Whether the painter has taken a leaf out of the book of his sitter and ever so slightly caricatured the caricaturist we cannot say; either this, or it is a marvellous portrait’; The Times, 3 May 1902. May thought it very good: ‘Shannon is painting a magnificent portrait of me. I think the best thing he has done’; cited Houfe 2002, p.156.
4) May was proud of his dazzling check suits – see photographs by Sarony, Elliott & Fry, Bassano and Foulsham & Banfield – though Shannon chose not to paint him in one. John Lavery recalled: ‘Phil was most extreme in his dress, and the last time we met was when he came to his studio door wearing the loudest suit I have ever seen. Seeing my look of surprise he smiled and said, “Come in and listen to it, dear boy”’; Lavery 1940, pp.81–2.
[5] May was a founder member of the club in 1898.

Carol Blackett-Ord