Sir Richard Francis Burton
1 of 8 portraits of Sir Richard Francis Burton
- Extended Catalogue Entry
Sir Richard Francis Burton
by Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton
oil on canvas, 1872-1875
24 in. x 20 1/8 in. (610 mm x 510 mm) overall
Given by Mrs Augusta Matthews and Mrs Alexandra Sutherland Orr, by wish of the artist, the artist's sisters, 1896
Sitterback to top
- Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), Explorer and writer. Sitter in 8 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton (1830-1896), Painter; President of the Royal Academy. Artist associated with 7 portraits, Sitter in 59 portraits.
This portraitback to top
This austere, ponderous and intense image of one of the great explorers of Victorian England captures his slightly brutal character very effectively. The artist Frederic Leighton met Burton in 1869 while they were taking a cure at Vichy and they formed a firm friendship which lasted until Burton's death. On 26 April 1872, Burton began sitting for his portrait. According to Lady Burton, he was extraordinarily difficult about it, anxious that his necktie and pin might be omitted and pleading with the artist, 'Don't make me ugly, there's a good fellow.' Apparently the portrait was left unfinished when Burton departed for Trieste in October 1872 and it was not completed until 1875. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year, but it is possible that Burton did not like it, because Leighton kept it at his house in Kensington. He intended to leave it to the National Portrait Gallery, of which he was a Trustee, but forgot, so the then Director, Lionel Cust, arranged for it to be donated by Leighton's sisters.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Audio Guide
- Victorian Portraits Resource Pack, p. 25
- Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 74
- Funnell, Peter, Victorian Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 25
- John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 74
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 141
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 141
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 92
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1872back to top
Current affairsThe (Secret) Ballot Act is passed. By ending open voting in local and general elections, the act reduced the scope for intimidation at hustings, an important step towards democracy. Previously, voters had to mount a platform and announce their choice of candidate to a recording officer, so although most working men had already been enfranchised, employers were able to punish workers who did not vote for their preferred candidate.
Art and scienceGeorge Eliot's novel Middlemarch is published. Exploring the impact of the 1832 Reform Act on provincial England, and charting the changes in class, politics, art and science in the nineteenth-century, Eliot's novel is widely perceived to be one of the best examples of the English realist novel.
InternationalThe Metaphysical Club is formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by William James (brother of author Henry James), Oliver Wendel Holmes Jr, and Charles Sanders Peirce. The group begins to develop the American philosophy of pragmatism, which held that ideas were simply mental constructs that people formed to help them cope with the world, but which did not exist in an ideal realm.
See this portrait
On display in Room 23 at the National Portrait Gallery