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

Edward Carpenter

© The Universal Order

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

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

Make a donation Close
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

Edward Carpenter

by Alvin Langdon Coburn
gum platinum print, 1905
11 1/8 in. x 8 3/4 in. (283 mm x 222 mm)
Given by Dr F. Severne Mackenna, 1977
Primary Collection
NPG P48

Sitterback to top

  • Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), Writer on social subjects. Sitter in 9 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966), Photographer. Artist associated with 114 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

A socialist poet and author, Edward Carpenter is perhaps best remembered as a campaigner for homosexual rights, who openly cohabited with a man, George Merrill, from 1898. His treatise Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure (1889) argued that civilisation was a temporary aberration
that humanity would ultimately outgrow. The American photographer Coburn has made the photograph by printing two emulsions one on top of the other in perfect registration. The first, made of platinum salts, gives the image its rich tonality. The second, of photosensitized gum Arabic, gives it a hint of colour.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 155 Read entry

    Edward Carpenter's life was a long reaction against Victorian convention and respectability, both social and sexual. The enduring influences were Socialism and Walt Whitman. At Millthorpe in Derbyshire in 1883 Carpenter built for himself and his working-class friend, Albert Fearnehough, and his family, a cottage with an orchard and market garden. Here he lived for the next forty years, writing, and, for a time, market gardening and making sandals. In 1898 George Merrill succeeded the Fearnehoughs; gardening and sandal-making ceased, and the two men kept open house for the many followers who made the pilgrimage there to meet the prophet of 'sexual liberation', among them E. M. Forster. He was 'touched' by Merrill: 'The sensation was unusual, and I still remember it, as I remember the position of a long vanished tooth. It was as much psychological as physical. It seemed to go straight through the small of my back into my ideas, without involving my thoughts'. This experience inspired Forster to write his novel Maurice.

    Carpenter's own writings include Towards Democracy (1883-1902), England's Ideal (1885) and Civilisation, its Cause and Cure (1889).

    The great American-born photographer Coburn, who had studied in New York with Gertrude Käsebier and Edward Steichen, was regularly in London from 1904 onwards, where George Bernard Shaw introduced him to many of the most celebrated and influential men of the day. He finally settled in England in 1912, and mastered the process of photogravure, which he used to illustrate the books in his well-known Men of Mark series. This portrait of Carpenter, taken in Bloomsbury, illustrates the emphasis in Coburn's earlier work on mood and broad effects, rather than on contrast and detail.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 106

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1905back to top

Current affairs

Following turmoil over the issue of Free Trade, Balfour resigns and calls an election, believing that the Liberals will be defeated. However, he is mistaken and Henry Campbell-Bannerman replaces him as the Liberal government Prime Minister.
The foundation of the Ulster Unionist Council, established to campaign against Home Rule, marks the birth of the Ulster Unionist party in Northern Ireland with the Duke of Abercorn as the first elected president.

Art and science

The Bloomsbury group of artists and intellectuals begin to hold informal gatherings at the home of Vanessa and Virginia Stephen. The group includes the artist Duncan Grant, biographer Lytton Strachey, and the art critics Clive Bell and Roger Fry.
The German theoretical physicist Albert Einstein has his 'annus mirabilis', publishing groundbreaking papers on the nature of light and motion, including his relation of mass and energy in the equation e = mc2.

International

Massacre of more than 100 workers at a peaceful demonstration by troops in St Petersburg becomes known as 'Bloody Sunday'. The event sparks the 1905 Revolution, with uprisings and peasant revolts in other cities, leading the Tsar to issue the October Manifesto, pledging moderate reform, including the establishment of an elected 'duma' (government), which only partially appeases imperial opposition. Still fighting Japan, the internal agitation weakens the imperial army.

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.