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Clarkson Frederick Stanfield

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Clarkson Frederick Stanfield

by William Frederick Lake Price
albumen print, arched top, May 1857
11 1/2 in. x 9 3/4 in. (292 mm x 248 mm)
Given by an anonymous donor, 1976
Primary Collection
NPG P860

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  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 41 Read entry

    The marine and landscape painter Stanfield, whom Ruskin regarded as 'the leader of the English realists', and 'incomparably the noblest master of the cloud-form of all our artists', spent his early career in the Merchant Navy, and this gave him an enduring love of the sea. He first came to London as a theatrical scene-painter, working above all at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He also supervised the scenery for Dickens' private theatricals. He soon turned to painting, however, and his accomplished works, usually variations on well-tried formulae, quickly won him academic and commercial success. A characteristic work stands on the easel in this photograph. It is a reduced version (location unknown) of his large canvas A Dutch Blazer coming out of Monnickendam, Zuyder Zee (1856), which Stanfield presented to the Garrick Club, London.

    William Lake Price trained as an architectural and topographical artist with C. W. Pugin, but took up photography in the early 1850s. He is best known for his elaborate genre studies, studies of architecture and topography (some commissioned by the Queen), and for portraits, especially of artists. His writings on photography in the British Journal of Photography (founded in 1854) reveal his interest in the aesthetic possibilities of the medium, and he endows the heavy features of the worthy Stanfield with a notable romantic intensity. He wrote to Stanfield on 27 May 1857 from his house at 58 Queen's Terrace, London:

    I write to say that I am happy to find your Portrait the most admired of any which I have done and on the Printer sending me some more which I have ordered, I will do myself the pleasure of sending you up six copies for yourself. The one you have will not be permanent being full of Chemicals which I did not take time to remove. (National Maritime Museum, Stanfield MSS)

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 582

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Events of 1857back to top

Current affairs

Palmerston passes the Matrimonial Causes Act in the face of parliamentary opposition. The act establishes divorce courts, although women, unlike men, are not allowed to sue for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition is held, a follow-up to the Great Exhibition of 1851, although highlighting Britain's private art collections rather than industry and technology. More than 1.3 million people visit the event.

Art and science

Elizabeth Gaskell publishes The Life of Charlotte Brontë, a year after the author's death. The controversial biography consolidates the myth of the Brontë sisters as isolated geniuses living in remote Yorkshire.
Illustrator George Scharf becomes the first Secretary of the National Portrait Gallery, overseeing the collection's growth and its several moves around London before a permanent home is established in 1896, the year after Scharf's death.


The Indian Revolt was a significant rebellion against the rule of the East Indian Company and a culmination of decades of discontent about British rule. After a year of horrific violence on both sides, the revolt was suppressed. It led to a more involved role by the British government in India, taking over responsibility from the East India Company.

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