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George Bernard Shaw

11 of 115 portraits by Sir Emery Walker

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George Bernard Shaw

by Sir Emery Walker
quarter-plate glass negative, 1888
Given by Emery Walker Ltd, 1956
Photographs Collection
NPG x19646

Sitterback to top

  • George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Playwright. Sitter in 148 portraits, Artist associated with 8 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Sir Emery Walker (1851-1933), Process-engraver and printer. Artist associated with 129 portraits, Sitter in 11 portraits.

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. 115 Read entry

    George Bernard Shaw quit his native Dublin for London in 1876. The next ten years were a period of momentous change for him. He wrote five novels, none of them published, but which were to provide raw materials later for his plays; he became a socialist, and joined the Fabian Society (1884); converted to vegetarianism (1881) - a diet to which he attributed his immense energy; but, above all, by sheer will-power, he conquered his own shy and nervous personality. He forced himself to speak on platforms, in public parks and on street corners, and turned himself into one of the most effective orators, debators and, indeed, wits of the day. 'The years of poverty had ended, and the years of plenty now began'.

    This photograph 'at ease in Summer in Battersea Park' by Shaw's friend and fellow-socialist Emery Walker shows him standing confidently in his newly-forged persona. It was taken at about the time of his appointment as music critic of the recently-founded evening paper The Star. In the next two years, under the pen-name of Corno di Bassetto, he was to write some of the liveliest music-criticism ever published.

    Walker, a friend of William Morris, with whom he worked in founding the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, was a process-engraver and typographer, who devoted his life to the improvement of the quality of book production. The Gallery owns some 10,000 of his photographic negatives, most of them reference photographs for book illustrations, but including a number of original negatives from life, like this one, of his friends and associates.

Placesback to top

Events of 1888back to top

Current affairs

Charles Ritchie, President of the Local Government Board, is responsible for the Local Government Act, a landmark piece of reform that establishes 62 elected county councils and over sixty county boroughs, with responsibility for roads, bridges, drains and general county business.
Five prostitutes are murdered, and their bodies mutilated, in Whitechapel, East London, by an unidentified killer who became known as 'Jack the Ripper'. The murderer was never discovered.

Art and science

Heinrich Hertz performs experiments validating James Clark Maxwell's model of electromagnetic radiation, a form of wireless energy transfer. His apparatus for generating electromagnetic waves is recognised as the first radio transmitter.
The term 'arts and crafts' is coined by the bookbinder T J Cobden-Sanderson with the establishment of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.


Accession of Kaiser Wilhelm II to the German throne. Wilhelm, the son of Kaiser Frederick III and Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria, was the last Kaiser of Germany.
George Eastman invents the Kodak box camera, the first commercially successful box camera for roll film, with the slogan 'you press the button - we do the rest'.

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