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Charles Kingsley

1 of 47 portraits of Charles Kingsley

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Charles Kingsley

by Lowes Cato Dickinson
oil on canvas, 1862
35 7/8 in. x 35 7/8 in. (912 mm x 910 mm)
Given by George Augustin Macmillan, 1932
Primary Collection
NPG 2525

Sitterback to top

  • Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), Novelist, Church of England clergyman and controversialist. Sitter in 47 portraits.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

Lowes Dickinson, the artist of this portrait, was himself an enthusiastic Christian Socialist and also painted F.D. Maurice and Thomas Hughes who were key members of the movement. This portrait, commissioned by Kingsley's publisher Alexander Macmillan, has a distinctive 'Alhambra' frame with Moresque ornament in the spandrels.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • I-Spy National Portrait Gallery, 2010, p. 40
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 354
  • 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. 70, 172 Read entry

    Gilt compo on pine, mitred at back, pinned and with corner blocks, traces of burnished water gilding on the sight edge beading, other traces of water gilding on the sight edge and top edge obscured by later regilding in oil, the front face of the frame also regilt more than once with a lacquer filling the crevices, the ornament of the spandrels attached to 1⁄ 3 inch thick pine board covered in linen and gessoed on the rear surface for stability. With the later label of A. W. Johnson, Gilder; Picture Frame Maker. Probably first regilt by Johnson in the 1880s or 1890s; repaired and regilt by Rowley, 1932, and subsequently by L. M. Helsen. 5 1⁄ 4 inches wide (including 1 inch flat), 15 inches wide diagonally into the corner.

    The Moresque ornament in the spandrels of this spectacular Alhambra frame is very similar to some of the decorative details from the Alhambra at Granada published by Owen Jones in both The Grammar of Ornament of 1856 and in his earlier book devoted to the Alhambra.1 The frame houses a portrait of the novelist and Christian Socialist, Charles Kingsley, commissioned by his publisher, Alexander Macmillan, from Lowes Cato Dickinson to join the painter's half-length portraits of F. D. Maurice and Tom Hughes who, like Kingsley and Dickinson, were also Christian Socialists.

    Dickinson attempted an ambitious composition for the Kingsley ('I really painted so much more important a picture', he told Macmillan, 'from the feeling that the subject deserved it').2 In August 1863 Dickinson wrote to Macmillan offering him the portrait at the reduced price of seventy-five guinea 'not of course including the frame'. The portrait had just come from the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy and must therefore already have had a frame, almost certainly the present one. Some of Dickinson's other work of the period is framed in the Alhambra style, including one of the versions of his portrait of F. D. Maurice, painted in 1858, and his portrait of Lord Russell, completed in 1867.3 By the 1870s Dickinson was using fluted frames like George Richmond's but with a richer leaf top edge; his frames of this period, again like Richmond's, were made by James Henry Chance.

    1 Pascual de Gayangos, Plans, elevations, sections and details of the Alhambra. From drawings by J. Gouty, & Owen Jones, 2 vols, 1842, 1845, published by Owen Jones.

    2 This and subsequent quotations come from the Macmillan papers, British Library, Add. MS. 55, 253, ff.46, 50, letters of 6 and 10 August 1863.

    3 The portrait of F. D. Maurice, not the Macmillan version, was in the collection of Revd D. B. Maurice. The portrait of Russell is in the National Portrait Gallery.

Events of 1862back to top

Current affairs

The Lancashire cotton famine, a depression in the north-west textile industry brought about by the American civil war, reaches its climax. With large numbers of mills closing after Confederate blockades halted cotton supplies, many Lancashire families were in receipt of relief.

Art and science

Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard carry out the first pasteurisation tests, the process of heating liquids at 55 degree Celsius or higher for short periods of time, destroying viruses and harmful organisms such as bacteria and yeast. .
Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables is published, covering the Napoleonic wars. It traces the ex-convict Jean Valjean's character against wider questions of social and political justice, duty and love.


Otto Eduard Leopold Bismarck becomes Minister-President of Prussia, appointed by Wilhelm I after the liberal Diet refused to authorise funding for a proposed reorganisation of the army. Bismarck, intent on maintaining royal supremacy, engineers the Unification of Germany during his time in office.
John Hanning Speke claims to have found the source of the Nile, proving that the Victoria Nile issued from the north end of lake Victoria, over Ripon Falls.

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