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Coventry Kersey Deighton Patmore

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Coventry Kersey Deighton Patmore

by John Singer Sargent
oil on canvas, 1894
36 in. x 24 in. (914 mm x 610 mm)
Given by the sitter's widow, Mrs Harriet G. Patmore, 1897
Primary Collection
NPG 1079

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Portrait and landscape painter and muralist. Artist associated with 72 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Patmore was urged to sit for Sargent in the summer of 1894 by his friend, and fellow author, Edmund Gosse. The finished picture was rapturously praised at the 1895 Royal Academy, being described by the Magazine of Art as the most electrifying portrait in the exhibition. Gosse himself said of the portrait that a hand of consummate power has fixed for ever upon the canvas the apocalyptical old age of Coventry Patmore.

Linked publicationsback to top

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  • Ormond, Richard, Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends, 2015 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 February - 25 May 2015), p. 149
  • Ormond, Richard; Kilmurray, Elaine, John Singer Sargent : complete paintings. Vol. 9, Figures and landscapes, 1914-1925, 2016, p. 65
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 160
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 160 Read entry

    Interestingly, this portrait of the poet Coventry Patmore was given to the Gallery by his widow only three years after it was painted and immediately following his death, so the Trustees obviously did not always adhere to the so-called Ten Years Rule. It is a wonderful piece of painting: atmospheric and suave, showing Patmore with his left arm resting on his hip and looking both alert and quizzical. Basil Champneys, who edited Patmore's works after his death, described the circumstances in which it was painted: 'It was not very long before the final failure of his health that he was persuaded, mainly by Mr Gosse's advice, to sit to Mr Sargent for the picture which is now in the National Portrait Gallery. I ran down to Lymington soon after it had been sent home, and Patmore was full of praise for it. It was "the best portrait which Sargent, or probably any other painter, had ever painted" .... It seemed to me to incline towards caricature, and to present a somewhat truculent character, alert and active rather than reflective, thus missing the aspect of "seer" which, in later years, had alone seemed to me characteristic of him.'

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 483
  • 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. 77, 182 Read entry

    Gilt oak, mitred and pinned, the gilding directly onto oak prepared with a warm-toned size, the outer reeding of solid oak planted on a pine base with an oak edging applied to the outer edge, the central flat section of oak-veneered pine now held in place by blocks but originally pinned, the sight reeding again of oak on a pine base and now held by blocks, the slip of oak. 6 inches wide plus 3⁄ 4 inch slip. With two identical labels: C.M. May,/Gilder & Picture Frame Manufacturer./STEAMWORKS - 19, St Ann's Court, Soho./PICTURES CLEANED LINED AND RESTORED.

    Sargent's portrait of the poet and author, Coventry Patmore, was given to the Gallery by Patmore's widow in 1897, a year after his death and within three years of the portrait being painted. The flat reeded Whistler frame, close to the type Whistler began using in the 1870s but slightly wider, was made by Charles Mitchell May, a framemaker used by Sargent in the period 1894-1922.1 The frame contrasts with the richer, more traditional styles used by the artist for his society portraits and was evidently chosen to enhance the enlongated narrow format of the portrait and the upright, aloof character of the sitter.

    1 May had set up as a framemaker in 1873 and was advertising his business in 1893 as 'Patronised by the leading artists of the day' (The Year’s Art, 1893, p 26). He was used by Sargent for the framing of two other works in the National Portrait Gallery: Sir Frank Swettenham, 1904 (no.108), and General Officers of World War I, 1922.

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1894back to top

Current affairs

Following Gladstone's resignation, Queen Victoria calls on the Liberal MP Archibald Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery to become Prime Minister, a position he reluctantly accepts. His government is largely unsuccessful as the Tory-dominated House of Lords stop the whole of the Liberal's domestic legislation, and his foreign policy plans are defeated by internal Liberal disagreements.

Art and science

The Prince of Wales opens Tower Bridge, built over the Thames to improve access to the growing commercial district of the East End. The bridge was constructed from two bascules, or leaves, which could be raised to allow ships to pass underneath.
Rudyard Kipling's hugely popular collection of children's stories and poems, The Jungle Book, is published. The stories, based on Kipling's own experiences in India, have been adapted many times.

International

The arrest and court-martial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer, opens up divisions in France over anti-semitism continuing until Dreyfus's exoneration in 1906. The French President Sadi Carnot is assassinated by an Italian anarchist in Lyon.
Nicholas II becomes Tsar of Russia following the death of Alexander III.
Japan and China go to war over control of Korea, with the more modern Japanese army winning an easy victory.

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