6 of 6574 portraits by Unknown photographer
by Unknown photographer
daguerreotype, circa 1851
4 1/2 in. x 3 1/2 in. (114 mm x 89 mm)
Given by M.K. Lucas, 1927
Sitterback to top
- Robert Stephenson (1803-1859), Civil engineer; son of George Stephenson. Sitter in 12 portraits.
This portraitback to top
This daguerreotype may have been taken to assist John Lucas in his group portrait Conference of Engineers at the Menai Straits.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Funnell, Peter (introduction); Marsh, Jan, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, 2011, p. 25 Read entry
Son of the railway pioneer George Stephenson, Robert Stephenson (1803-59) supervised the construction of the famous steam engine the Rocket at his father’s Newcastle works. From 1838 he constructed, or advised on the construction of, railways in Britain and abroad. This daguerreotype may have been taken to assist John Lucas in his group portrait Conference of Engineers at the Menai Straits (c.1851-3), which was commissioned by the Institute of Civil Engineers to commemorate the building of the Britannia Bridge, which linked Anglesey to the Welsh mainland.
- Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 27 Read entry
The only son of the pioneer of railways, George Stephenson, Robert Stephenson's early career was spent in the locomotive business, and the famous Rocket (1829) was built under his supervision at his father's Newcastle works. But his enduring fame rests on his work as a civil engineer, and above all on his bridges: the high-level Tyne bridge at Newcastle, the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick, the Britannia Bridge across the Menai Straits (1850), in which tubular girders were used for the first time, and the Victoria Bridge across the St Lawrence at Montreal.
To commemorate the building of the Menai Bridge the artist John Lucas painted for the Institute of Civil Engineers his group portrait Conference of Engineers at the Menai Straits prior to floating a Tube of the Britannia Bridge (c.1851-3). In this the central figure of Stephenson is based closely on this daguerreotype, which was given to the Gallery by a descendant of the painter, and may have been taken specially to help Lucas in his project. If so, it is likely that the artist himself suggested Stephenson's thoughtful pose.
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 587
Events of 1851back to top
Current affairsA population census is taken of all the people living in Britain, recording details about every householder on the night of March 30. This census greatly extends the fields of the 1841 census, being the first to record full details of individuals' birth locations, exact age, marital status, and details of disability, thus making it a valuable tool for demographers and genealogists. The census was made open for public inspection in 1912.
Art and scienceThe Great Exhibition is held in London,at the Crystal Palace, especially designed by Sir Joseph Paxton. The international exhibition was designed to showcase the best in science, art and industry. it attracted millions of visitors.
Lizzie Siddal poses for John Millais's painting Ophelia.
Hermann von Helmotz invents the ophthalmoscope, making it possible for doctors to examine within a patient's eye.
InternationalLouis-Napoléon Bonaparte, President of the French Republic, stages a coup d'état, successfully dissolving the French National Assembly without having the constitutional right to do so. Now the sole ruler of France, he re-establishes universal suffrage, previously abolished by the Assembly and becomes 'Napoléon III, Emperor of the French'.
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