W.G. Grace

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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W.G. Grace

attributed to Archibald John Stuart Wortley
oil on canvas, 1885-1905
35 1/2 in. x 27 1/2 in. (902 mm x 699 mm)
Given by Marylebone Cricket Club and other cricket clubs, 1926
Primary Collection
NPG 2112

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 90
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 257
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 176 Read entry

    One of the great celebrities of the later Victorian period, W. G. Grace earned a special place in national life thanks to his cricketing triumphs. He made his debut at Lord’s and the Oval in the summer of 1864 and scored his first century in the same year. In an extraordinary career in first-class cricket between 1865 and 1908 he scored 54,896 runs, averaging 39.55, and took 2,876 wickets (average 17.92). He exemplifies the transformation of cricket into the modern sport with its structure of county championship and test matches, its technical development and its international reach. Portly and bearded, Grace was instantly recognisable and attracted spectators in vast numbers.

    Authorship of this portrait remains uncertain and there was much speculation as to who painted it at the time of its acquisition in 1926. But the existence of a drawing by Archibald Wortley (1849–1905) that is clearly related to the oil, and is monogrammed and dated 1890, strongly suggests that it is by him.

Events of 1885back to top

Current affairs

Redistribution Act; continues Gladstone's extensive package of electoral reform, although his Liberal government is later defeated when the Irish Nationalists, seeking support for Home Rule, side with the Conservatives over a budget measure. The Marquess of Salisbury is invited to form a 'caretaker' government.

Art and science

The Dictionary of National Biography is first published quarterly, under the editorship of Leslie Stephen, and sub-editorship of Sidney Lee. Volume 63 completed the work in 1900. Setting new standards in life writing, the DNB exemplified the form of the brief biography, formalising a style and approach to writing lives, based on Stephen's guiding principles of selection and presentation in 'business-like form'.


The death of the famous General Charles Gordon sparks outrage in Britain. Sent to the Sudan to evacuate Egyptian forces from Khartoum, threatened by Sudanese rebels under Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi, Khartoum quickly came under siege, and Gordon is killed and beheaded two days before the relief force arrived. The British public proclaimed Gordon a martyr, and attacked government, particularly Gladstone, for not relieving British forces earlier.

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