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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Walford Graham Robertson (1866-1948), Painter, illustrator, costume designer and playwright

Painter and theatre designer; born 8 July 1866, in London, into a wealthy family. Encouraged in artistic pursuits by introductions to Walter Crane, Thomas Armstrong and Edward Burne-Jones; trained with Albert Moore and at National Art Training School, South Kensington; exhibition debut New Gallery 1889; member New English Art Club 1891 and Royal Society of British Artists 1896; solo exhibition Carfax Gallery 1906 followed by election to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters 1910; paintings comprise imaginative Symbolist subjects, landscapes and portraits, including that of Ellen Terry (NPG 3132); designed sets and costumes for many stage productions in New York and London 1890–1900s, including Wilde’s Salome for Sarah Bernhardt and Undine and Pelleas and Melisande for Mrs Patrick Campbell; his own play Pinkie and the Fairies (1908) was a notable success; close friend and studio companion of painter Arthur Melville, as well as a collector and student of William Blake’s works; retreated from the modern world in later life, living without electricity or piped water in Surrey; died 4 September 1948.

‘The picture of him by Sargent has perpetuated his slim and graceful figure, surmounted by the perceptive, vital face – kindly, alert, intelligent.’[1] Today Robertson is best remembered through this portrait by John Singer Sargent and also Time Was (1931), his autobiographical reminiscences of friendships with Bernhardt, Terry, Henry Irving, Henry James, Jane Morris and other contemporaries.

Magdalene Keaney

Footnotesback to top

1) Preston 1953, p.xiv.

Referencesback to top

Asleson 2004c
Asleson, R., ‘Robertson, Walford Graham (1866–1948)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004.

Hedberg 1996
Hedberg, G., Yanks Paint Brits: From Benjamin West to Nelson Shanks, from King George III to the Princess of Wales, exh. cat., Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1996.

Jenkins & Berman 2002
Jenkins, D.F., and A. Berman, Whistler, Sargent, and Steer: Impressionists in London from Tate Collections, exh. cat., Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN, 2002.

Maas 1984
Maas, J., The Victorian Art World in Photographs, London, 1984.

Ormond & Kilmurray 2002
Ormond, R., and E. Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: Portraits of the 1890s, New Haven and London, 2002.

Preston 1953
Preston, K., ed., Letters from Graham Robertson, London, 1953.

Robertson 1931
Robertson, W.G., Time Was: Reminiscences, London, 1931.

Stetz 2007
Stetz, M.D., Facing the Late Victorians: Portraits of Writers and Artists from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, Newark, DE, 2007.

Watts 2011
Watts, A., ‘Walford Graham Robertson RBA, ROI, RP (1866-1948)’, Arts and Crafts Movement in Surrey Newsletter, no.14, Autumn-Winter 2011, pp.11-18.