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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Frederic George Stephens (1828-1907), Pre-Raphaelite painter and art critic

Art critic and historian; born 10 October 1827, in London. Entered Royal Academy Schools 1844 where he met William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais; joined Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood at the end of 1848, and failing to gain success as a painter became a freelance art critic, in 1861 obtaining a permanent position with the Athenaeum, to all but two issues of which he contributed until January 1901; also wrote for other publications, as well as publishing monographs on Mulready (1867), Landseer (1869) and others, and historical surveys of Flemish and Norman medieval architecture; other notable achievements were four volumes cataloguing the satirical prints in the British Museum (1870–83) and a ninety-part series on private collections in Britain; [1] remains best known for his critical promotion of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s career, and for his close friendship with Hunt, eventually ruptured by a number of trivial disputes; died 9 March 1907, in London.

In youth he was regarded as having distinctively handsome features, which can be seen in several PRB works; later he grew a flowing beard and wore his hair unfashionably long, in old age appearing as ‘a scruffy-looking individual, with gleaming, alert eyes’. [2] Described as an ‘industrious, learned and careful’ critic, out of sympathy with developments in art after 1860, [3] he was also perceived as ‘singularly devoid of humour’. [4] To William Michael Rossetti, his oldest surviving friend, he was ‘a man of firm and settled opinions and … of character even rather unbending – but nonetheless with a certain quality of personal diffidence which tells in his conversation’. [5]

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) Published in the Athenaeum, 1873–87.
2) [Denis Eden], ‘One of the Pre-Raphaelites: When F.G. Stephens taught drawing at University College School’, The Times, 26 Feb. 1959, p.12. Owing to a childhood accident he walked with a pronounced limp, which may have contributed to the ‘scruffy’ perception.
3) Steele 1912.
4) Eden, see note 2 above.
5) Rossetti 1906, vol.1, p.68.

Referencesback to top

‘Aliquis’ 1892
‘Aliquis’, ‘Art Critics of Today’, Art Journal, July 1892, pp.193–7.

Bendiner 1998
Bendiner, K., The Art of Ford Madox Brown, University Park, PA, 1998.

Bennett 1969
Bennett, M., comp., William Holman Hunt, exh. cat., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1969.

Bennett 2010
Bennett, M., Ford Madox Brown: A Catalogue Raisonné, 2 vols, New Haven and London, 2010.

Bronkhurst 1987
Bronkhurst, J.E., ‘William Holman Hunt: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings and Drawings executed up to his Departure for the Near East on 13 January 1854’, 2 vols, unpublished doctoral thesis, Courtauld Institute, University of London, 1987.

Bronkhurst 2006
Bronkhurst, J.E., William Holman Hunt: A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 2 vols, 2006.

Coombs et al. 1986
Coombs J.H., and others, eds, A Pre-Raphaelite Friendship: The Correspondence of William Holman Hunt and John Lucas Tupper, Ann Arbor, MI, 1986.

De Montfort 2008
De Montfort, P., ‘“Two to make a Brotherhood”: F.G. Stephens, Art Criticism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’, The Review of the Pre-Raphaelite Society, vol.16, no.2, Autumn 2008, pp.57–69.

Fredeman 2002–10
Fredeman, W.E., ed., The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 9 vols, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2002–10.

Funnell & Warner 1999
Funnell, P., and M. Warner, Millais: Portraits, exh. cat., NPG, London, 1999.

Hunt 1905
Hunt, W.H., Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 2 vols, London, 1905

Hunt 1913
Hunt, W.H., Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 2nd ed., 2 vols, London, 1913.

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

Macleod 1986
Macleod, D.S., ‘F.G. Stephens: Pre-Raphaelite Critic and Art Historian’, Burlington Magazine, vol.128, June 1986, pp.398–406.

Macleod 2004
Macleod, D.S., ‘Stephens, Frederic George (1827–1907)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004.

Manson 1920
Manson, J.B., Frederic George Stephens and the Pre-Raphaelite Brothers, privately printed, 1920.

Millais 1899
Millais, J.G., The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, 2 vols, London, 1899.

Ormond 1967
Ormond, R., ‘Portraits to Australia’, Apollo, vol.85, 1967, pp.25–7.

Parris 1984
Parris, L., ed., The Pre-Raphaelites, exh. cat., Tate, London, 1984.

Roberts & Wildman 1997
Roberts, L., and S. Wildman, eds, Arthur Hughes, His Life and Works: A Catalogue Raisonné, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1997.

Rose 1981
Rose, A., Pre-Raphaelite Portraits, Yeovil, Somerset, 1981.

Rosenfeld & Smith 2007
Rosenfeld, J., and A. Smith, Millais, exh. cat., Tate, London, 2007.

Rossetti 1906
Rossetti, W.M., Some Reminiscences and Other Writings, 2 vols, London, 1906.

Steele 1912
Steele, R., ‘Stephens, Frederic George (1828–1907)’, DNB, London, 1912.

Thirlwell 2003
Thirlwell, A., William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis, New Haven and London, 2003.

Upstone 2003
Upstone, R., The Pre-Raphaelite Dream: Paintings and Drawings from the Tate Collection, London, 2003.

Warner 1979a
Warner, M., The Drawings of John Everett Millais, exh. cat., Arts Council, London, 1979.

Woolner 1917
Woolner, A., ed., Thomas Woolner R.A., Sculptor and Poet: His Life in Letters, London, 1917.

Dr Jan Marsh