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Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, copy by John Collier, 1883, based on a work of 1881 - NPG 1024 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Charles Darwin

copy by John Collier
oil on canvas, 1883, based on a work of 1881
49 1/2 in. x 38 in. (1257 mm x 965 mm)
Given by the sitter's son, William Erasmus Darwin, 1896
Primary Collection
NPG 1024

On display in Room 27 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

  • Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882), Naturalist, geologist and originator of the theory of evolution. Sitter in 34 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • John Collier (1850-1934), Portrait painter and writer on art. Artist associated with 21 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This portrait of Charles Darwin, the great scientist and author of On the Origin of Species, is a copy by the artist of a portrait undertaken by John Collier for the Linnaean Society. Collier was himself the son-in-law of another prominent late Victorian scientist, Thomas Henry Huxley. The portrait was presented to the Gallery by Darwin's eldest son, William Erasmus Darwin, who wrote to Lionel Cust in 1896: 'The picture is a replica of the one in the rooms in the Linnaean Society and was made by Collier after the original. I took some trouble about it and as a likeness it is an improvement on the original.' It shows Darwin as an old man in the year before his death. According to Darwin's third son, Francis, 'The portrait represents him standing facing the observer in the loose cloak so familiar to those who knew him and with his slouch hat in his hand. Many of those who knew his face most intimately, think that Mr Collier's picture is the best of the portraits and in this judgement the sitter himself was inclined to agree.'

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 83
  • Audio Guide
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • 100 Writers, p. 66
  • Victorian Portraits Resource Pack, p. 21
  • Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 43 Read entry

    Collier worked hard on this replica, and considered he had improved the likeness. It shows Darwin as a venerable sage.

  • Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 80
  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 121 Read entry

    John Collier, who married Thomas Huxley's daughter Marian, painted his first version of this portrait in 1881. By common consent considered 'the best likeness', when the National Portrait Gallery required an image of the scientist in 1883, Collier agreed to copy it. Darwin is shown with the cloak and hat that he wore for his daily constitutionals around the 'sandwalk' at Down House, accessories forming part of his quiet, country-dwelling image.

  • Funnell, Peter, Victorian Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 21
  • Funnell, Peter (introduction); Marsh, Jan, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, 2011, p. 27 Read entry

    This portrait of Charles Darwin (1809-82), the great scientist and author of On the Origin of Species, is a replica by the artist of a painting undertaken for the Linnaean Society. It shows Darwin as an old man in the year before his death. According to Darwin’s third son, Francis, ‘the portrait represents him standing facing the observer in the loose cloak so familiar to those who knew him and with his slouch hat in his hand. Many of those who knew his face most intimately, think that Mr Collier’s picture is the best of the portraits and in this judgment the sitter himself was inclined to agree.'

  • Hackmann, W.D., Apples and Atoms: Portraits of Scientists from Newton to Rutherford, 1986, p. 55
  • Hart-Davis, Adam, Chain Reactions, 2000, p. 123
  • John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 80
  • Parris, Matthew, Heroes and Villains: Scarfe at the National Portrait Gallery, 2003 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 30 September 2003 to 4 April 2004), p. 59
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 145
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 145 Read entry

    This portrait of Charles Darwin, the great scientist and author of On the Origin of Species, is a copy by the artist of a portrait undertaken by John Collier for the Linnaean Society. Collier was himself the son-in-law of another prominent late Victorian scientist, Thomas Henry Huxley. The portrait was presented to the Gallery by Darwin's elder son, William Erasmus Darwin, who wrote to Lionel Cust in 1896: 'The picture is a replica of the one in the rooms of the Linnaean Society & was made by Collier after the original. I took some trouble about it, and as a likeness it is an improvement on the original.' It shows Darwin as an old man in the year before his death. According to Darwin's third son, Francis, 'The portrait represents him standing facing the observer in the loose cloak so familiar to those who knew him, and with his slouch hat in his hand. Many of those who knew his face most intimately, think that Mr. Collier's picture is the best of the portraits, and in this judgement the sitter himself was inclined to agree.'

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 165
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 166 Read entry

    This portrait of the naturalist Charles Darwin is a copy by the artist of a painting made for the Linnaean Society in 1881. It was given to the National Portrait Gallery by Darwin’s eldest son, William Erasmus Darwin, who in 1896 wrote to the Director Lionel Cust that ‘as a likeness, it is an improvement on the original’. Darwin’s career as a scientist began properly in 1831, when his university tutor secured him a place on the Beagle voyage around the world. The expedition lasted five years, visiting some of the most remote places in the world including South America, the Galápagos Islands, Australia and South Africa. Darwin’s experiences and the samples that he collected provided the foundations of his controversial work on evolution, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859).

    John Collier (1850–1934) was the son-in-law of Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s defender in the furore surrounding the publication of his work. Collier’s portrait, which depicts Darwin as an old man, was much admired. Darwin’s son Francis wrote in his Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887), ‘Many of those who knew his face most intimately, think that Mr Collier’s picture is the best of the portraits and in this judgement the sitter himself was inclined to agree.’

Events of 1881back to top

Current affairs

Benjamin Disraeli dies of bronchitis. He refuses a state funeral and is buried next to his wife, Mary Ann Viscountess Beaconsfield.
Gladstone's Irish Land Act is passed in a bid to stop violence carried out by the republican Land League, conducted in protest at the 1870 Land Act.
Henry Mayers Hyndman forms the Marxist Democratic Federation.

Art and science

The Natural History Museum is opened on Exhibition Road, South Kensington. The museum, a landmark gothic design by the architect Alfred Waterhouse, was built to house specimens from the natural sciences, previously in the British Museum's collection. Today, the museum comprises of over 70 million items, and is a world-renowned research centre.

International

Alexander II is assassinated in a bomb attack by members of a left-wing revolutionary movement. He was succeeded by his son, Tsar Alexander III.
US President James Garfield is shot by Charles Guiteau.
The first Anglo-Boer war ends. The war is started by a Boer uprising, as the British had annexed the Transvaal in 1877. Following Britain's defeat at the Battle of Majuba Hill, a truce is signed giving the Boers self-government and later independence.

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