The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Unknown man, formerly known as Sir John Fowler, 1st Bt

© National Portrait Gallery, London

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

Unknown man, formerly known as Sir John Fowler, 1st Bt

by John Jabez Edwin Mayall
oil over albumen print, circa 1865
13 7/8 in. x 10 1/2 in. (352 mm x 267 mm)
Purchased, 1987
Primary Collection
NPG P326

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

For this large photograph, which was probably taken after the opening of the Metropolitan Railway in January 1863, Fowler sat to Mayall, the leading London portrait photographer. The portrait combines a somewhat incongruous studio backdrop of a village scene with the parapet of a bridge and a length of railway track. The portrait is hand-coloured, an 'extra' offered by many of the commercial firms, and housed in an elaborate gilt frame in emulation of the large-format miniature paintings favoured by the Victorians.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 81 Read entry

    As a civil engineer Fowler devoted his life to the railways, and he is best known for his Pimlico bridge, the first railway bridge across the Thames in London, the development (from 1853) of the Metropolitan Railway system, and (with Sir Benjamin Baker) the Forth railway bridge (1883-90), probably the most remarkable piece of engineering to be carried out in the nineteenth century, and one which earned Fowler his baronetcy.

    For this photograph, probably taken after the opening of the Metropolitan Railway in January 1863, Baker sat to the American-born photographer, Mayall, who had once been assistant to the daguerreotypist Claudet. A highly successful businessman, his mass-produced royal photographs did much to popularize the carte-de-visite format. In this large photograph Mayall combines a somewhat incongruous studio backdrop of a village scene with the parapet of a bridge and a length of railway track, emblems of Fowler's profession. Hand colouring was an 'extra' offered by many of the commercial photographic firms, and shows them consciously emulating the large-format portrait-miniature paintings favoured by the Victorians.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 226

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1865back to top

Current affairs

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson is the first female to be awarded a doctor's licence. She is also involved in collecting signatures for the Manchester Suffrage Committee, the first suffrage organisation, formed this year. John Stuart Mill was also elected to parliament this year on the platform of women's suffrage.
Palmerston dies in October, and is replaced as leader of the Liberal government by his Foreign Secretary, Lord Russell.

Art and science

Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is published, inspired by Carroll's relationship (as Oxford don Sir Charles Dodgson) with his friend Henry George Liddell's daughter Alice.
Matthew Arnold publishes the first series of Essays in Criticism, a defining text in the development of English literature as an academic discipline.


In the American civil war, Robert E. Lee surrenders the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant, leading to the surrender of the Confederacy's remaining field armies. A few days later, US President Abraham Lincoln is shot dead by Confederate sympathiser John Wilkes Booth. Later this year slavery is officially abolished after years of fierce campaigning. In response, the first branch of the Ku Klux Klan is founded on Christmas Eve.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.