Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins, by Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt, 1850 - NPG 967 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Wilkie Collins

by Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt
oil on panel, 1850
10 1/2 in. x 7 in. (267 mm x 178 mm)
Purchased, 1894
Primary Collection
NPG 967

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On 25 August 1894 George Scharf, the Director of the Gallery, wrote to Millais, who was then a Trustee of the Gallery, to say how sad he was that he had not been able to attend the meeting on the previous Thursday when the trustees had acquired Millais' portrait of Carlyle. He added that, 'Curiously enough, at the last moment before the meeting, a small portrait of Wilkie Collins attributed also to your pencil, was submitted to the Trustees. It represents Collins with a tremendous forehead, wearing spectacles and the face turned in three-quarters to the spectator's left. His raised hands are joined, palm to palm and fingers very flexible. Do you remember painting such a portrait?' Millais did indeed remember it, particularly the great bump on the sitter's forehead, but was more concerned by the discolouration owing to the 'nasty brown varnish'. It is an atmospheric portrait, intense and private, as befitted the author of The Woman in White' and The Moonstone.

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Events of 1850back to top

Current affairs

Cardinal Wiseman, a Catholic priest who had exerted a strong influence on the Oxford movement, is made a Cardinal and leader of the Catholic church in England, thus restoring Roman Catholic hierarchy in England.

Art and science

Death of poet laureate William Wordsworth; his great autobiographical poem The Prelude is published posthumously, famously charting the growth of the poet's mind.
Tennyson's In Memoriam is also published. A poignant record of his grief over the death of his friend Arthur Hallam, the poem also movingly questions the strength of faith in an increasingly scientific age.


Up to 50,000 pioneers travel west in wagons on the Oregon trail in the United States, one of the main overland migration routes across the continent. Spanning over half the continent, the trail led 2,170 miles through territories and land which would later become six US states, including Kansas, Wyoming and Oregon, helping the US to implement its goal of Manifest Destiny - building a nation spanning the North American continent.

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