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Swinburne and his sisters

1 of 25 portraits of Algernon Charles Swinburne

Swinburne and his sisters, by George Richmond, 1843 - NPG 1762 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Swinburne and his sisters

by George Richmond
watercolour, 1843
20 3/4 in. x 22 1/2 in. (527 mm x 572 mm)
Bequeathed by the sitter's sister, Isabel Swinburne, 1915
Primary Collection
NPG 1762

Sittersback to top

Artistback to top

  • George Richmond (1809-1896), Portrait painter and draughtsman; son of Thomas Richmond. Artist associated with 325 portraits, Sitter in 14 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Algernon Swinburne first won literary acclaim for the brilliance of his poetic drama Atalanta in Calydon (1865). By that time he was already in the forefront of literary and artistic circles, being a close friend of the Pre-Raphaelite poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and a champion of contemporary French poets, including Charles Baudelaire. His subsequent poetry attracted condemnation on moral grounds but Swinburne's literary output continued unabated, despite ill-health, until the end of his life. He was the eldest of the six children of Admiral Charles and Lady Jane Swinburne, and is shown in this portrait with Alice, the eldest sister, and Edith, who died in her early twenties, on his left. The family lived on the Isle of Wight and this is almost certainly the setting for this watercolour portrait. It was commissioned from the artist by Lady Jane and cost ninety pounds.

Linked publicationsback to top

Events of 1843back to top

Current affairs

Sir Henry Cole commissions 1,000 copies of the first Christmas card, designed by John Callcott Horsley. Cole would later be instrumental in staging the Great Exhibition, and in developing science and art education in Britain.
Nelson's statue, by E.H. Bailey, is placed on top of its column in Trafalgar Square.

Art and science

The Theatre Regulations Act is passed, abolishing the privileged position of the 'major' theatres which held letters patent from the crown, allowing all theatres to perform 'legitimate' theatre.
First volume of Ruskin's Modern Painters published, praising Turner and demanding that artists should demonstrate 'truth to nature' in their work. Ruskin is a great inspiration to the Pre-Raphaelites.

International

The first experimental telegraph wire is constructed between Baltimore and Washington, using Morse code to send a message. The code, in which pulses of current deflect an electromagnet, moving a marker and producing written codes on a strip of paper, had been invented by Samuel Morse in 1838. The line officially opens in 1844.

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