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Sir Daniel Gooch, 1st Bt

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Sir Daniel Gooch, 1st Bt

by Sir Francis Grant
oil on canvas, 1872
56 in. x 44 in. (1422 mm x 1118 mm)
Purchased, 1976
Primary Collection
NPG 5080

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Sir Francis Grant (1803-1878), Portrait painter and President of the Royal Academy; Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery. Artist associated with 102 portraits, Sitter associated with 21 portraits.

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  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 107 Read entry

    Brunel, as far as we know, was indifferent to how he looked. Yet compare his photographic portraits with the painting of Daniel Gooch, a good engineer, but one whose likeness does not succeed in capturing the modernity or vitality of his craft. It was conventional for a man of achievement to commission private portraits of himself, but it was only with the rise of popular newspapers that portraits were commissined for public consumption, picturing people's heroes in the context of work.

  • Gibson, Robin, The Face in the Corner: Animal Portraits from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, 1998, p. 61
  • Robin Gibson, Pets in Portraits, 2015, p. 94 Read entry

    As a boy in Northumberland, Gooch had sat on George Stephenson’s knee and acquired a lifelong love of steam engines. In 1837, at the age of twenty-one, he was appointed locomotive superintendent of the Great Western Railway and worked with his friend Isambard Kingdom Brunel on designing and improving locomotives for Brunel’s broad-gauge track and laying the foundations for the modern railway system. He received his baronetcy in 1866 for inaugurating the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph and had sent and received the first cable messages to America earlier that year. Returning to the Great Western in 1865, he rescued it from bankruptcy and was subsequently instrumental in the construction of the Severn and Mersey tunnels. The only clue to all these achievements in Sir Francis Grant’s urbane portrait is the pair of dividers that Gooch holds in his hand. Instead, he shows him as the country gentleman and MP that he had become, sitting in bourgeois splendour next to a view suggestive of his native Northumberland moors, with his large black retriever by his side.

    Before he became a painter, Grant had not only studied for the law but was also a keen fox-hunting enthusiast. He painted one of the last portraits of Sir Walter Scott, showing the novelist with his deerhounds, in 1831 (Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh) and much of his mature work is of hunting groups or equestrian portraits. As such he enjoyed a friendly rivalry with Sir Edwin Landseer and became President of the Royal Academy when Landseer declined the post in 1866. Grant’s painting of Gooch’s panting black retriever is a tour de force not unworthy of Landseer, though totally without the latter’s sentimentality. Retrievers were a relatively new group, originally developed in Britain specifically as gun dogs from crossings principally between Newfoundlands and Labradors, though this long-haired black variety does not correspond to any of today’s breed standards. It may have been a forerunner of the flat-coated retriever.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 252

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Events of 1872back to top

Current affairs

The (Secret) Ballot Act is passed. By ending open voting in local and general elections, the act reduced the scope for intimidation at hustings, an important step towards democracy. Previously, voters had to mount a platform and announce their choice of candidate to a recording officer, so although most working men had already been enfranchised, employers were able to punish workers who did not vote for their preferred candidate.

Art and science

George Eliot's novel Middlemarch is published. Exploring the impact of the 1832 Reform Act on provincial England, and charting the changes in class, politics, art and science in the nineteenth-century, Eliot's novel is widely perceived to be one of the best examples of the English realist novel.


The Metaphysical Club is formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by William James (brother of author Henry James), Oliver Wendel Holmes Jr, and Charles Sanders Peirce. The group begins to develop the American philosophy of pragmatism, which held that ideas were simply mental constructs that people formed to help them cope with the world, but which did not exist in an ideal realm.

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