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Samuel Johnson

4 of 50 portraits of Samuel Johnson

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Samuel Johnson

by James Barry
oil on canvas, circa 1778-1780
23 7/8 in. x 20 7/8 in. (606 mm x 530 mm) oval
Purchased, 1899
Primary Collection
NPG 1185

Sitterback to top

  • Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Poet, critic and lexicographer. Sitter associated with 50 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • James Barry (1741-1806), Painter. Artist or producer associated with 9 portraits, Sitter in 8 portraits.

This portraitback to top

A study for James Barry's mural painting The Distribution of Premiums in the Society of Arts, 1783, which was produced to mark the occasion on which the Society gave out awards for achievement in the arts, manufactures and commerce. Referred to by the artist as 'that venerable sage', Johnson is pictured in the finished work with other members of the Society.

Linked publicationsback to top

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1778back to top

Current affairs

Catholic Relief Act is the first to provide a measure of catholic emancipation, modifying the penal laws that effectively prevented Catholics from holding public office. The reform is encouraged by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, who had balked at various prosecutions under the statutes now repealed.

Art and science

Francis D'Arblay, writing as Fanny Burney, publishes her novel Evelina, or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World, in which she satirises contemporary society.
Engineer Joseph Bramah invents a type of flush toilet, replacing the usual slide valve with a hinged flap that seals the bottom of the bowl.

International

American War of Independence: France, joining the American colonies in their fight against Britain, sends a large fleet across the Atlantic. The British rapidly abandon Philadelphia. The American naval hero John Paul Jones makes successful raids around the coasts of Britain.
James Cook's third Pacific voyage, aboard the ships HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery, first views Oahu then Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands, which Cook names the Sandwich Islands.

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