Henry Fawcett; Dame Millicent Fawcett

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Henry Fawcett; Dame Millicent Fawcett

by Ford Madox Brown
oil on canvas, 1872
42 3/4 in. x 33 in. (1086 mm x 838 mm)
Bequeathed by Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, 2nd Bt, 1911
Primary Collection
NPG 1603

On display in Room 19 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery


This Watts frame with its very fine punched v…

Sittersback to top

Artistback to top

  • Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893), Painter and designer. Artist or producer associated with 14 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.

This portraitback to top

In this intimate portrait by Madox Brown, Henry Fawcett is seen together with his wife, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, and appears to be dictating to her. Both sitters were distinguished public figures who campaigned for women's equality.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 78
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Edited by Lucy Peltz & Louise Stewart, Love Stories: Art, Passion & Tragedy, 2020, p. 123
  • Funnell, Peter (introduction); Marsh, Jan, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, 2011, p. 49 Read entry

    Henry Fawcett (1833-84), who was blinded in a shooting accident in 1858, had a distinguished career as professor of political economy at Cambridge, and as a Member of Parliament. He was active in the passing of the 1867 Reform Bill and was particularly concerned with the position of women in employment. In this intimate portrait by Madox Brown, Fawcett is seen together with his wife, Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929), and appears to be dictating to her. An active campaigner for women’s suffrage, Millicent joined the first women’s suffrage committee in 1867, the year of her marriage. In 1897 she became president of the influential National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, which opposed the more militant suffragettes active in the early 1900s. She retired from the presidency after women gained their first, restricted, voting rights in 1918.

  • Rab MacGibbon, National Portrait Gallery: The Collection, p. 68
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 214
  • Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 106, 174 Read entry

    Gilt pine with compo mouldings, apparently of standard Watts construction. 6 inches wide.

    This portrait of the blind political economist, Henry Fawcett, and his wife was commissioned by the politician, Sir Charles Dilke. On 2 July 1872, when it was nearing completion, Ford Madox Brown wrote to his patron about the frame, 'The time approaches when I shall want the frame for the Fawcett's picture; will you allow me to order it? I am particular as to the frames for my pictures & there is a Venecian pattern (much liked now by friends of mine for works of this description) - to be had at Messrs Green & Co 14 Charles St Middlesex Hospital. Should you have any particular taste for your own frames please let me know'.1 Later Brown wrote to Sir Charles to inform him that the bill for the frame would be sent to him direct, which suggests that Brown's patron had left the choice of frame to him.

    This Watts frame with its enriched flat is presumably the Venetian pattern 'to be had of Messrs, Green', the framing business of Joseph Green who did so much work for the Pre-Raphaelites. It is a pattern used earlier by Watts himself (see NPG 5048) and by Rossetti (the chief of the 'friends' to whom Brown refers in his letter).

    1 British Library, Add. MS. 43,909, ff.281, 289-90.

  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 157 Read entry

    This portrait by Ford Madox Brown (1821–93) shows two of the period’s leading liberal intellectuals. Henry Fawcett was Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge from 1863 to 1884 and a Member of Parliament from 1865 until his death. He was an advocate of radical causes and a keen supporter of feminism. Blinded by a shooting accident in 1858, he resolved that this would not affect how he spent his life and career. He is shown with his wife, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, and appears to be dictating to her: the paper he holds is inscribed with both their names. A leading feminist, Millicent joined the first women’s suffrage committee in 1867, the year of their marriage, and in 1897 became president of the influential National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

    The portrait was commissioned from the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Ford Madox Brown, by Henry Fawcett’s friend and political ally, Sir Charles Dilke. Its conception as a double portrait appears to have come from Madox Brown, who wrote to Dilke on 21 January 1872 that ‘My idea of painting Fawcett and his wife seems to me the most interesting’ and that ‘a group might be made of them full of character & pathos’.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1872back to top

Current affairs

The (Secret) Ballot Act is passed. By ending open voting in local and general elections, the act reduced the scope for intimidation at hustings, an important step towards democracy. Previously, voters had to mount a platform and announce their choice of candidate to a recording officer, so although most working men had already been enfranchised, employers were able to punish workers who did not vote for their preferred candidate.

Art and science

George Eliot's novel Middlemarch is published. Exploring the impact of the 1832 Reform Act on provincial England, and charting the changes in class, politics, art and science in the nineteenth-century, Eliot's novel is widely perceived to be one of the best examples of the English realist novel.


The Metaphysical Club is formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by William James (brother of author Henry James), Oliver Wendel Holmes Jr, and Charles Sanders Peirce. The group begins to develop the American philosophy of pragmatism, which held that ideas were simply mental constructs that people formed to help them cope with the world, but which did not exist in an ideal realm.

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