Sir William Schwenck Gilbert
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert
by Frank Holl
oil on canvas, 1886
39 1/2 in. x 49 1/2 in. (1003 mm x 1257 mm)
Bequeathed by Sir William Schwenck Gilbert, 1937
Sitterback to top
- Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911), Poet, dramatist and librettist of the 'Savoy' operas. Sitter associated with 13 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Francis Montague ('Frank') Holl (1845-1888), Painter; son of Francis Holl. Artist associated with 18 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.
This portraitback to top
The rather gloomy appearance of this gentleman, with his military moustache, high-necked collar and hunting crop belies the fact that he was one half of the immortal partnership of Gilbert and Sullivan, responsible for some of Britain's greatest comic operas. Gilbert qualified for the bar but abandoned it to write libretti for Sir Arthur Sullivan's music. Their work included HMS Pinafore (1878), Iolanthe (1882), The Mikado (1885), and The Yeoman of the Guard (1888). In this portrait Gilbert, who was obliged to ride for two hours everyday in order to alleviate his gout, wears hunting dress.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Audio Guide
- Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 44
- Funnell, Peter (introduction); Marsh, Jan, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, 2011, p. 31
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 157
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, pp. 156-7
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 247
- Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 106, 177
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 169
Events of 1886back to top
Current affairsThe Liberals win the election after the Irish Nationalists, including John Dillon, side with them over Home Rule, and Gladstone resumes the seat of Prime Minister. The failure of the first Home Rule Bill divides the Liberal party; those opposed to Home Rule break away to form the Liberal Unionist Party, supporting the Conservatives. This results in a Liberal loss at an emergency election called, and the Marquess of Salisbury becomes Prime Minister for the second time.
Art and scienceThe Severn Tunnel is opened, freeing up the route between London and South Wales.
Pears' soap company buy the copyright to John Millais's painting Bubbles, using it in an iconic and enduringly recognisable advertisement. Millais, however, attracted strong criticism from the art community, who protested against the debasement and commercialisation of art.
InternationalThe American poet Emily Dickinson dies, aged 54. Dickinson wrote over 1,700 poems, which first came to light in 1890, and is recognised as one of America's most important writers.
The Statue of Liberty, designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, is erected on Bedloe's island. The huge copper statue, a gift from the French to the United States to commemorate the centennial of American independence, is an iconic figure of liberty, and America itself.
See this portrait
On display in Room 28 at the National Portrait Gallery