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Lytton Strachey

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Lytton Strachey

by Dora Carrington
oil on panel, 1916
20 in. x 24 in. (508 mm x 609 mm)
Bequeathed by Frances Catherine Partridge (née Marshall), 2004
Primary Collection
NPG 6662

Sitterback to top

  • (Giles) Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), Critic and biographer; son of Sir Richard Strachey. Sitter in 143 portraits, Artist associated with 5 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Dora Carrington (1893-1932), Artist. Artist associated with 10 portraits, Sitter in 20 portraits.

This portraitback to top

In the First World War, when this portrait was made, he was a conscientious objector. He wrote for various journals and magazines while his Eminent Victorians (1918), with essays on Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale and General Gordon, made his name and set standards for literary biography for the twentieth century.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 101
  • Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 51 Read entry

    A leading Bloomsbury figure, Strachey set new standards for critical biography in his Eminent Victorians (1918). Dora Carrington loved him deeply, and committed suicide after his death.

  • Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 209
  • Spalding, Frances, The Bloomsbury Group, 2013, p. 68
  • Spalding, Frances, Insights: The Bloomsbury Group, 2005, p. 60
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, pp. 192 - 193 Read entry

    Dora Carrington (1893–1932) painted this portrait of the writer and critic Lytton Strachey at the beginning of what became a devoted, if unconventional, relationship. The two met in 1916. Strachey had studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he met Clive Bell, Leonard Woolf and Saxon Sydney-Turner. These individuals formed an important part of the Bloomsbury Group to which Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell also belonged. Although not a member of Bloomsbury, Carrington met Strachey through Bell, who was one of the Group’s founders. Initially they appeared incompatible. Strachey was learned, literary, homosexual and older than Carrington, who had studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and was repulsed by his advances. Nevertheless, in November 1917 they began living together at Tidmarsh Mill in Berkshire. The pair became a ménage à trios when they were joined by Ralph Partridge, whom Carrington married in 1922. By then, Strachey had achieved considerable success with his book of biographical essays Eminent Victorians (1918). When he died in 1932, Carrington was distraught and committed suicide seven weeks later, at the age of thirty-eight.

Events of 1916back to top

Current affairs

As war drags on with heavy losses conscription is introduced with the Military Service Act. Conscientious objectors who refused to fight were compelled to do non-military war work, and some were jailed.
British Summer Time is introduced, putting the clocks forward an hour during the summer in order to capitalise on daylight hours.

Art and science

C. Hubert H. Parry sets William Blake's poem, Jerusalem, to music popularising the poem and tune as a patriotic English anthem. On hearing Edward Elgar's orchestrated version in 1922, King George V suggested that it replace God Save the King as the National Anthem.


The Irish Citizen Army starts a Nationalist rebellion in Dublin: The Easter Rising.
Massive losses are suffered on the Western Front at the battles of the Somme and Verdun.
The Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire (1916-18) led by Prince Faisal is assisted by T.E. Lawrence, who became known as Lawrence of Arabia.

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