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Thomas Arnold

1 of 5 portraits of Thomas Arnold

Thomas Arnold, by Thomas Phillips, 1839 -NPG 1998 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Early Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Thomas Arnold

by Thomas Phillips
1839
48 in. x 39 in. (1219 mm x 991 mm); 49 7/8 in. x 40 1/8 in. (1267 mm x 1018 mm) overall
NPG 1998

This portraitback to top

This is the only important oil portrait of Arnold in existence. It was engraved by H. Cousins, published J. Ryman, Oxford, 1840 (example in NPG). A half-length copy of the portrait is at Oriel College, Oxford; this copy was engraved by B. Holl, published B. Fellowes, for A. P. Stanley, The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold (1844), I, frontispiece. Another copy by T. Aldridge is at Rugby School. The NPG portrait was slightly cut down when it entered the collection (its original measurements were 56 x 44 inches (142.2 x 111.8 cm)). It is mentioned in 'Mrs Arnold's Record' for February 1839, a diary kept by Mrs Arnold for the benefit of her children:

'We left Westmoreland, and were for a few days in London, that your Father might sit to Phillips for that admirable portrait which is now in our Rugby dining room, and which will be a precious possession amongst you as long as you live. His longest sitting was on the 8th [of February] which will be a well remembered day by me from the number of friends who found us there, and with them there was so much to say that poor Phillips had to beg for more quiet. Mr Bunsen was there, with Niebuhr's letters in his hand, reading passages with all the earnestness of his earnest nature. Then there was our original friend Crabbe Robinson - and the Stanleys ... Phillips was very anxious about his picture, and so impressed with the love of his art and the desire to give and catch real character and not merely a likeness, that I felt to respect him as an artist - besides his being an intelligent and estimable man as far as we saw of him.' [1]

Footnotesback to top

1) Communicated to the NPG by Mr Humphrey Ward, 1923, from unpublished Arnold family papers.

Referenceback to top

Phillips 1953
T. Phillips, 'Sitters Book' (copy of original MS, NPG archives), under the year 1839.

Physical descriptionback to top

Brown eyes and dark brown hair. Dressed in white shirt, white bands, black and red academic robes. Seated in a wooden chair with red covering, holding an open book on his lap. Dark green curtain behind covering most of the background.

Provenanceback to top

The sitter; Matthew Arnold; by descent to his daughters, Lady Sandhurst and Mrs Whitridge, and presented by them, 1923.1

1 There are several letters relating to the portrait and its presentation (NPG archives). It was first offered to the NPG in 1908.

Exhibitionsback to top

RA, 1839 (61); SKM, 1868 (511); VE (221).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: Richard Ormond, Early Victorian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1973, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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