Sir Leslie Stephen
Photograph © National Portrait Gallery, London
Sir Leslie Stephen
by George Frederic Watts
oil on canvas, 1878
26 in. x 20 7/8 in. (660 mm x 530 mm)
Lent by Matthew Synge, 2006
Sitterback to top
- Sir Leslie Stephen (1832-1904), Writer, philosopher, mountaineer and first editor of the Dictionary of National Biography. Sitter in 13 portraits.
Artistback to top
- George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), Painter and sculptor. Artist associated with 91 portraits, Sitter in 43 portraits.
This portraitback to top
This portrait was painted in a single sitting on 17 January 1878 as a wedding present for Stephen's fiancée, Julia Duckworth. A contemporary reviewer described Stephen's appearance in the painting as 'critical yet deprecating, sarcastic and mournful, fastidious, thoughtful and Bohemian: not one who ranks either himself or others very high, or expects much from a life that appears to him full of errors of taste, weaknesses of intellect, and futilities of aim'. The introspective, even melancholic, tone seems characteristic of Stephen's personality.
Events of 1878back to top
Current affairsThe University of London becomes the first English university to admit women to examination and degree, although women had been allowed to attend classes at the University since 1830.
The former British Prime Minister Lord John Russell dies at Pembroke Lodge, in Surrey.
Art and scienceLibel trial between critic John Ruskin and artist Whistler, provoked after Ruskin's review of Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket accused Whistler of 'flinging a pot of paint in the public's face'. Whistler sued Ruskin, and although Ruskin was found guilty, he only had to pay one farthing in damages; the case bankrupted Whistler.
Frederic Leighton, the renowned painter and sculptor is elected President of the Royal Academy.
InternationalThe Treaty of Berlin is signed following the end of the Turkish-Russo war (1877-8). In a major shake-up of the Balkans, Bulgaria became autonomous, and Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania gained independence and territory, and Bosnia-Herzegovina was assigned to Austria for administration. The British delegation, including Lord Russell and Disraeli, score diplomatic success in limiting Russian influence in the Balkans, continuing to prop up Turkey.
See this portrait
On display in Room 26 at the National Portrait Gallery
- Sir Leslie Stephen
- The Watts Collection
- 2017 Anniversaries
- Room 26: Portraits by G.F. Watts
- Only Connect - installation video
- Only Connect
- Room 25: Women, politics and domestic life in Victorian Britain
- Rebel women
- Room 26: G.F. Watts Bicentenary
- Princes of Victorian Bohemia: Photographs by David Wilkie Wynfield
- Julia Margaret Cameron: 'Poets, prophets, painters and lovely maidens'