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Isambard Kingdom Brunel

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel

by John Callcott Horsley
oil on canvas, 1857
36 in. x 27 3/4 in. (914 mm x 705 mm)
Given by the sitter's son, Isambard Brunel, 1895
Primary Collection
NPG 979

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903), Painter and Royal Academician. Artist associated with 10 portraits, Sitter in 11 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 107 Read entry

    Brunel, as far as we know, was indifferent to how he looked. Yet compare his photographic portraits with the painting of Daniel Gooch (NPG 5080), a good engineer, but one whose likeness does not succeed in capturing the modernity or vitality of his craft. It was conventional for a man of achievement to commission private portraits of himself, but it was only with the rise of popular newspapers that portraits were commissined for public consumption, picturing people's heroes in the context of work.

  • Hart-Davis, Adam, Chain Reactions, 2000, p. 159
  • Ormond, Richard, Early Victorian Portraits, 1973, p. 76
  • Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 217
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 84

Events of 1857back to top

Current affairs

Palmerston passes the Matrimonial Causes Act in the face of parliamentary opposition. The act establishes divorce courts, although women, unlike men, are not allowed to sue for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition is held, a follow-up to the Great Exhibition of 1851, although highlighting Britain's private art collections rather than industry and technology. More than 1.3 million people visit the event.

Art and science

Elizabeth Gaskell publishes The Life of Charlotte Brontë, a year after the author's death. The controversial biography consolidates the myth of the Brontë sisters as isolated geniuses living in remote Yorkshire.
Illustrator George Scharf becomes the first Secretary of the National Portrait Gallery, overseeing the collection's growth and its several moves around London before a permanent home is established in 1896, the year after Scharf's death.

International

The Indian Revolt was a significant rebellion against the rule of the East Indian Company and a culmination of decades of discontent about British rule. After a year of horrific violence on both sides, the revolt was suppressed. It led to a more involved role by the British government in India, taking over responsibility from the East India Company.

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