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Edward Carpenter

Edward Carpenter, by Roger Fry, 1894 - NPG 2447 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Edward Carpenter

by Roger Fry
oil on canvas, 1894
29 1/2 in. x 17 1/4 in. (749 mm x 438 mm)
Given by Roger Fry, 1930
Primary Collection
NPG 2447

On display in Room 28 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

  • Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), Writer on social subjects. Sitter in 8 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Roger Fry (1866-1934), Critic and painter. Artist of 5 portraits, Sitter in 18 portraits.

This portraitback to top

In 1886, Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and C. R. Ashbee invited Edward Carpenter, the sandal-wearing socialist, to lecture in Cambridge. He made a huge impression, not least on Roger Fry, who was then in his second year as an undergraduate. Together with Ashbee, Fry went to visit Carpenter in Derbyshire and they became friends. In 1894, Fry painted this portrait of him, looking suitably raffish, alone in a bleak interior and wearing what Fry called his 'anarchist overcoat'. Following Carpenter's death in 1929, Fry offered the portrait to the Gallery: 'In view of the position that the late Edward Carpenter held in the world of social reform you may, I think, wish to have a portrait of him. I knew him well in my youth and one of my earliest more or less complete works was a portrait of him. I should be very glad to offer this to the National Portrait Gallery should it be found acceptable.'

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 89
  • Audio Guide
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Funnell, Peter (introduction); Marsh, Jan, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, 2011, p. 9
  • MacCarthy, Fiona, Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy 1860-1960, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 16 October 2014 - 11 January 2015), p. 41
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 163
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 163 Read entry

    In 1886 Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and C.R. Ashbee invited Edward Carpenter, the sandal-wearing socialist, to lecture in Cambridge. He made a huge impression, not least on Roger Fry, who was then in his second year as an undergraduate. Together with Ashbee, Fry went to visit Carpenter in Derbyshire and they became friends. In 1894 Fry painted this portrait of him, looking suitably raffish, alone in a bleak interior and wearing what Fry called his 'anarchist overcoat'. Following Carpenter's death in 1929, Fry offered the portrait to the Gallery: 'In view of the position that the late Edward Carpenter held in the world of social reform you may, I think, wish to have a portrait of him. I knew him well in my youth and one of my earliest more or less complete works was a portrait of him. I should be very glad to offer this to the National Portrait Gallery should it be found acceptable.'

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 105
  • Spalding, Frances, The Bloomsbury Group, 2013, p. 90
  • Spalding, Frances, Insights: The Bloomsbury Group, 2005, p. 80
  • Tinker, Christopher, Speak its Name! - Quotations by and about Gay Men and Women, 2016, p. 74
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 173 Read entry

    Socialist writer and campaigner for homosexual equality, Edward Carpenter was one of the great dissenters from contemporary orthodoxies. After a brief career at the University of Cambridge, he settled in Millthorpe, Derbyshire, where he combined his literary work with the simple life and, after 1893, lived openly with his lover, George Merrill. His extensive writings included Towards Democracy (1883), Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure (1889) and an autobiography, My Days and Dreams (1916).

    Roger Fry (1866–1934), the future critic and champion of avant-garde art, first met Carpenter in 1886 when he was lecturing at Cambridge; Fry was then in his second year as an undergraduate. He subsequently visited Carpenter in Derbyshire. ‘I knew him well in my youth’, Fry wrote, when he presented this painting to the Gallery in 1930, ‘and one of my earliest and more or less complete works was a portrait of him’. On 14 January 1894, the year that he painted this work, he described it in a letter to his mother as showing Carpenter ‘standing up and with a very anarchist overcoat on’. Several months later he reported to her that the portrait had been requested for exhibition in Liverpool, noting ‘that picture has certainly done me a lot of good.’

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1894back to top

Current affairs

Following Gladstone's resignation, Queen Victoria calls on the Liberal MP Archibald Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery to become Prime Minister, a position he reluctantly accepts. His government is largely unsuccessful as the Tory-dominated House of Lords stop the whole of the Liberal's domestic legislation, and his foreign policy plans are defeated by internal Liberal disagreements.

Art and science

The Prince of Wales opens Tower Bridge, built over the Thames to improve access to the growing commercial district of the East End. The bridge was constructed from two bascules, or leaves, which could be raised to allow ships to pass underneath.
Rudyard Kipling's hugely popular collection of children's stories and poems, The Jungle Book, is published. The stories, based on Kipling's own experiences in India, have been adapted many times.

International

The arrest and court-martial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer, opens up divisions in France over anti-semitism continuing until Dreyfus's exoneration in 1906. The French President Sadi Carnot is assassinated by an Italian anarchist in Lyon.
Nicholas II becomes Tsar of Russia following the death of Alexander III.
Japan and China go to war over control of Korea, with the more modern Japanese army winning an easy victory.

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