The old gardener Simpson....and his wife

The old gardener Simpson....and his wife

by George Washington Wilson
albumen print, 1854
4 in. x 3 3/4 in. (102 mm x 96 mm)
Purchased, 1975
Primary Collection
NPG P22(14)

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Sittersback to top

  • Mr Simpson (active 1854), Gardener at Balmoral. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • Mrs Simpson (active 1854). Sitter in 1 portrait.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

Wilson was invited to photograph the royal estate at Balmoral in 1854, where he produced portraits of the royal family and household. Shown frankly and with affectionate humour, portraits such as this offer a unique window into the life of the estate. The folded arms of the gardener, Simpson, and the clasped hands of his wife make the sitters look impatient; more probably, given the long exposure times necessary to make such a picture, they were intended to minimise blur. The layer of egg white solution (albumen) on the paper gives a smooth surface that produces a highly-detailed image.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG P22(15): Mary Symons; Victoria-Alice Symons (reverse)

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Events of 1854back to top

Current affairs

The Working Men's College in London is founded by Frederick Maurice, who along with Charles Kingsley, a leading proponent of Christian Socialism, mocked by its opponents as 'muscular Christianity'. Christian Socialism attempted to combine the fundamental aims of socialism with the ethics of Christianity.
William Howard Russell is sent to cover the Crimean war by his paper, The Times; his dispatches mark the start of modern war correspondence.

Art and science

The artist William Powell Frith paints his famous Ramsgate Sands, Life at the Seaside, an astute observation of modern leisure time.
Dr John Snow, the founder of epidemiology, discovers that cholera is spread by water, rather than air, following the deaths of 500 people in ten days who had drank from a water pump in Broad Street. The Public Health Act is passed in response, setting up the General Board of Health.


Britain enters the Crimean war on 31 March, after an alliance is formed between Turkey, France, Sardinia and Britain against Russia. Florence Nightingale achieves great fame in introducing modern nursing techniques to the battlefield, earning her the title 'Lady with the Lamp'.

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