Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
by Sir William Blake Richmond
oil on canvas, 1887
29 in. x 22 in. (737 mm x 559 mm)
Given by Sir William Blake Richmond, 1896
Sitterback to top
- Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Novelist and essayist. Sitter associated with 33 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Sir William Blake Richmond (1842-1921), Painter; son of George Richmond. Artist or producer associated with 18 portraits, Sitter in 16 portraits.
This portraitback to top
The portrait was painted in one sitting, at Richmond's house, on a hot afternoon in August, 1886 amid a jovial company including Sidney Colvin, Edward Burne-Jones and Burne-Jones' daughter, Margaret. Margaret recalled their lively conversation: They discussed suicide; compared notes as to their feelings towards policemen; told ghost stories; and most of the time Mr. Richmond painted, and Mr. Stevenson sat easily talking, smoking, and drinking coffee.
Related worksback to top
Linked publicationsback to top
- 100 Portraits, p. 93
- Smartify image discovery app
- Victorian Portraits Resource Pack, p. 7
- Funnell, Peter, Victorian Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 7
- Funnell, Peter (introduction); Marsh, Jan, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, 2011, p. 43 Read entry
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) wrote stories and essays that are remarkable for their dramatic realisation, such as Treasure Island (1883), The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Kidnapped (1886). This portrait was painted in one sitting, at the artist’s house, on a hot afternoon in August 1886 amid a jovial company including Sidney Colvin, Edward Burne-Jones and Burne-Jones’s daughter, Margaret. Margaret recalled their lively conversation: ‘They discussed suicide; compared notes as to their feelings towards policemen; told ghost stories; and most of the time Mr Richmond painted, and Mr Stevenson sat easily talking, smoking and drinking coffee.’
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 589
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 170 Read entry
Robert Louis Stevenson abandoned the studies of engineering and the law early in life and turned to writing stories and novels of great charm and humour. His name will forever be associated with Treasure Island (1883), but he also wrote other classics of the language such as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped (both 1886), produced around the time this portrait by William Blake Richmond (1842–1921) was painted. Much travelled, partly in response to enduring ill health, Stevenson spent the last four years of his life on his plantation, Vailima, in Samoa. Although unfinished, the circumstances of Richmond’s painting are highly evocative of artistic friendships of the period and record a memorable late Victorian occasion. It was painted in one sitting, at Richmond’s house in Hammersmith, on a hot August afternoon amid a jovial company including Stevenson’s mentor and closest friend, the art historian Sidney Colvin, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones and Burne-Jones’s daughter, Margaret. Margaret recalled their conversation in her diary for 10 August 1886: ‘They discussed suicide; compared notes as to their feelings towards policemen; told ghost stories; and most of the time Mr. Richmond painted, and Mr. Stevenson sat easily talking, smoking, and drinking coffee.’
Placesback to top
- Place made: United Kingdom: England, London (artist's home, Beavor Lodge, Hammersmith, London)
Events of 1887back to top
Current affairsQueen Victoria celebrates her Golden Jubilee, marking 50 years of her reign.
In what becomes known as 'Bloody Sunday', or the Trafalgar Square Riot, the police attack a meeting of the Social Democratic Federation, led by among others) Elizabeth Reynolds, John Burns, Annie Besant and Robert Cunninghame-Graham, killing three and injuring more than 200 crowd members.
Art and scienceA Study in Scarlet, the first of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective mysteries featuring Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr Watson, is published. One of only four novels (there were a further 56 short stories) featuring Holmes, the mystery turns around the discovery of a corpse in Brixton.
The essayist and critic Walter Pater publishes Imaginary Portraits in which he consolidates his doctrine of Aestheticism, 'art for art's sake'.
InternationalBritain ratifies the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, thus accepting the terms of the International Copyright Act (1886), which abolishes the requirement to register foreign works and introduces an exclusive right to import or produce translations.
The British annex Zululand; it becomes part of Natal in 1897.
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