The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

First Previous 8 OF 15 NextLast

John Keats

8 of 15 portraits of John Keats

© National Portrait Gallery, London

9 Likes voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Buy a print Buy a greetings card Make a donation Close
  • Buy a print
  • Buy greetings card
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

John Keats

by Joseph Severn
oil on canvas, 1821-1823
22 1/4 in. x 16 1/2 in. (565 mm x 419 mm)
Given by S. Smith Travers, 1859
Primary Collection
NPG 58

Sitterback to top

  • John Keats (1795-1821), Poet. Sitter in 15 portraits, Artist or producer associated with 2 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Joseph Severn (1793-1879), Painter and Civil Servant. Artist or producer associated with 14 portraits, Sitter associated with 3 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Severn, who had nursed his friend in Rome, described the circumstances recreated in this posthumous portrait: 'This was the time he first fell ill & had written the Ode to the Nightingale on the morning of my visit to Hampstead. I found him sitting with the two chairs as I have painted him & was struck with the first real symptoms of sadness in Keats so finely expressed in that poem.'

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 60
  • Audio Guide
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • 100 Writers, p. 54
  • Holmes, Richard, The Romantic Poets and Their Circle, 2013, p. 112
  • Holmes, Richard, Insights: The Romantic Poets and Their Circle, 2005, p. 94
  • Holmes, Richard; Crane, David; Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantics and Revolutionaries: Regency portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, 2002, p. 24,59
  • Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 162
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 113
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 113 Read entry

    Joseph Severn was a minor artist, distinguished only by the fact that he was a close friend of Keats, whose portrait he painted on many occasions. Indeed, Keats died in Joseph Severn's arms. When the picture was acquired by the NPG, Severn described how it came to be painted: 'After the death of Keats the impression was so painfull on my mind, that I made an effort to call up the last pleasant remembrance in this picture which is posthumous. This was at the time he first fell ill & had written the Ode to the Nightingale (1819) on the mor[ning] of my visit to Hampstead. I found him sitting with the two chairs as I have painted him & I was struck with the first real symptom of sadness in Keats so finely expressed in that Poem.'

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 346
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 128 Read entry

    John Keats was one of the greatest Romantic poets although, in his short career, he had little impact beyond his circle of friends. His first volume of poetry, published in 1816, was followed by Endymion (1818), which was mercilessly attacked by reviewers. Inspired by a walking tour of the Lake District and Scotland in 1818, Keats composed the poems for which he is best known, including ‘To Autumn’ and ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, which were published a year before his untimely death.

    This posthumous portrait is one of several painted by Keats’s close friend Joseph Severn (1793–1879). He has imagined the poet at home in Hampstead on the morning he wrote his famous meditation on mortality, ‘Ode to the Nightingale’ (1819). Severn had told George Scharf (22 December 1859) that he: ‘found him sitting with the two chairs as I have painted him & was struck with the first real symptom of sadness in Keats so finely expressed in that Poem … After this time he lost his cheerfulness & I never saw him like himself again.’ Tragically, the poet’s health worsened and he died of consumption in Severn’s arms in Rome, aged only twenty-five.

  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 290
  • Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantic Icons, 1999, p. 91

Placesback to top

Events of 1821back to top

Current affairs

George IV is crowned at Westminster Abbey on 19 July and Queen Caroline is turned away from the ceremony. Two weeks later she dies reawakening popular sympathy for her cause. Riots break out at her funeral as the Government attempts to reroute the procession to avoid the popular reaction of the mob.

Art and science

Thomas De Quincey publishes Confessions of an English Opium Eater in the London Magazine. A creative commentary on his mental life, it gained instant notoriety.
The Manchester Guardian (later The Guardian) established.
Michael Faraday builds the first electric motor.


Napoleon dies.
Revolts in Wallachia and Moldovia against the oppressive rule of the Ottoman Turks. The rebels appeal to Tsar Alexander I for help and the Greek War of Independence begins.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.


Our channel

View a wide collection of video content on our YouTube channel from past projects to our latest films.

Sit back and watch

Artist and sitter interviews

Get insights into creating portraiture from BP Portrait Award 2020 artists and their sitters.

Explore behind the scenes

Sleeping Awake

Watch our film created to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gallery before we closed for our major transformation project.

Hear our story