Mervyn Laurence Peake

© Estate of Mervyn Peake / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Mervyn Laurence Peake

by Mervyn Laurence Peake
oil on canvas, 1932
23 5/8 in. x 19 7/8 in. (600 mm x 505 mm)
Given by the estate of Mervyn Peake, 2019
Primary Collection
NPG 7074

Sitterback to top

  • Mervyn Laurence Peake (1911-1968), Artist and writer. Sitter in 2 portraits, Artist or producer of 2 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Mervyn Laurence Peake (1911-1968), Artist and writer. Artist or producer of 2 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Edited by Lucy Peltz & Louise Stewart, Love Stories: Art, Passion & Tragedy, 2020, p. 108
  • Rideal, Liz, Insights: Self-portraits, 2005, p. 87 Read entry

    The wide, sky-blue eyes, black eyebrows and disarrayed hair of the sitter give this self-portrait a charged and unsettling atmosphere. The ‘peaks’ in the background are an obvious and charming evocation of the artist’s name. Peake considered himself a painter, but is best known for his original illustrations and writing, including poems, plays and nonsense verse, such as The Trouble with Geraniums:

    The trouble with myself is all self-centred in the eye

    The trouble with my looking glass, is that it shows me, me;

    There’s trouble with all sorts of things where it should never be.

    This self-portrait is wild and yet recognisably human, like the strange characters that inhabit his books, Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950), where the symbolism of the castle has been likened to the ‘labyrinthine mind’ and Titus Alone (1959).

Events of 1932back to top

Current affairs

Sir Oswald Mosley forms the British Union of Fascists. Mosley's party - nicknamed the Black Shirts after their uniform - was founded along the lines of Mussolini's Fascist Party in Italy and called for the replacement of parliamentary democracy with a system of elected executives. During the war Mosley was interned and the BUF was proscribed.

Art and science

John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton 'split the atom'. In fact, Cockcroft and Walton's achievement was to change the nucleus of one element into another by bombarding it with protons, rather than to literally spit an atom apart. Nevertheless 'splitting the atom' has become the popular way of describing this important stage in the development of nuclear technology.


Saudi Arabia is formed by the unification of the Kingdoms of Hijaz and Nejd under King Abdul Aziz.
Iraq is granted independence from the British mandate established by the League of Nations in 1919-20.

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