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

John Acton, 1st Baron Acton

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Buy a print Make a donation Close
  • Buy a print
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

John Acton, 1st Baron Acton

by Franz Seraph von Lenbach
oil on mahogany panel, circa 1879
25 1/2 in. x 20 1/2 in. (648 mm x 521 mm)
Purchased, 1958
Primary Collection
NPG 4083

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Foister, Susan, Cardinal Newman 1801-90, 1990 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 2 March - 20 May 1990), p. 71 Read entry

    A Roman Catholic by birth, schooled at Oscott by Dr (later Cardinal) Wiseman, the historian Acton succeeded Newman in 1859 as editor of the monthly periodical The Rambler. Many of Acton's early historical writings were first published in this form.

    Acton, unlike Newman, was a liberal, whose ideas had been moulded by six years study in Munich under the theologian Johan von Döllinger. Acton met with official Catholic disapproval of his writings more than once during the 1860s, and argued strongly against the definition of papal infallibility promulgated by the Vatican Council of 1870. Döllinger was excommunicated in 1871, together with other Catholic professors, for his resistance to the definition. Acton was a great friend of Gladstone but tried to stop him from publishing his first pamphlet against the decrees, written after a visit to Döllinger. Acton and Döllinger corrected the proofs of Gladstone's second pamphlet, which prompted Newman's Letter to the Duke of Norfolk. Acton expected excommunication himself, but it did not come. He found the controversy died down. Acton devoted the rest of his life to historical writing, and in 1895 was made Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge.

    The portrait is one of two similar half-lengths (the other is signed and dated 1879); it is unclear whether they were painted with a formal commission in mind.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 3

Events of 1879back to top

Current affairs

Women's education continues to grow, with the founding of women's colleges in Oxford. Somerville College took its name from the late Scottish scientific writer Mary Somerville. Lady Margaret Hall was founded by Elizabeth Wordsworth, great niece of the poet, and named after Margaret Beaufort, a medieval noblewoman and mother of Henry VII.

Art and science

Edison invents the first practical electric light bulb.
The first prehistoric paintings, dating back 14,000 years, are discovered in the Altamira caves in Northern Spain when a young girl notices paintings of bison on the ceilings.
The French actress Sarah Bernhardt, already acclaimed for roles in plays such as Racine's Phèdre and Victor Hugo's Hernani, celebrates a successful season at London's Gaiety Theatre.

International

Anglo-Zulu war fought between British forces and the Zulus, after disputes between the Boers and Zulu leader Cetshywayo over the Utrecht border attracted British intervention. The British victory marked the end of the independent Zulu nation, although the Zulu's initial victory at Isandhlwana was a major surprise. The Battle of Rorke's Drift was dramatised in the film Zulu, starring Michael Caine, in 1964.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.

Citationclose

How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.

Contribute

Blog

Gallery blog

Read our latest news and have your say.

Join the conversation

Tell us More about our silhouettes, photograph of Hubert Leslie, Silhouettist

Identify our Silhouettes

Join enthusiastic contributors who have already identified 155 sitters.

Help transcribe signatures

Tell us More about our Silvy sitters, photograph of Camille Silvy, photographer with boy

Tell us more about our Silvy sitters

Help us identify the sitters who visited Camille Silvy’s photographic studio during the 1860s.

Identify our sitters