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William Callow

William Callow, by Edward Robert Hughes, circa 1906-1907 -NPG 2937 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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William Callow

by Edward Robert Hughes
Pastel on paper, circa 1906-1907
15 5/8 in. x 11 1/4 in. (397 mm x 285 mm)
NPG 2937

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and dated lower left: ‘E.R.Hughes. RWS’;
inscr. brown crayon across top: ‘WILLIAM CALLOW. R.W.S F.RGS’.

This portraitback to top

Sitter and artist were colleagues in the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colour and as vice-president Hughes was leading signatory of the congratulatory address to Callow on his ninetieth birthday, 28 July 1902.[1] This portrait, which may have been proposed at this date, conveys Callow’s physical vigour in advanced age, when his daily routine included a walk of five or six miles.[2]

The inscription also commemorates Callow’s longstanding membership of the Royal Geographical Society, prompted by his youthful interest ‘in everything connected with the dark continent’ of Africa.[3]

Edward Robert Hughes, who was a regular visitor to Callow’s home in Buckinghamshire, had ‘a great affection’ for him, according to his widow, who regarded NPG 2937 as ‘a most beautiful work and a speaking likeness’.[4] It was probably executed not long before the sitter’s death, and was presented to Mrs Callow by the artist, whom she promptly commissioned to produce a posthumous watercolour portrait partly from memory and partly from a photograph (see ‘All known portraits, By other artists, 1907–15’); following Hughes’s own death, however, the latter was finally completed by his uncle Arthur Hughes.[5]

In 1929, the National Portrait Gallery’s director Henry Hake visited Mary Callow to discuss the acquisition of a portrait. According to his report, he expressed ‘a strong preference’ for the present work, ‘which seemed to me a dignified and faithful representation’.[6] The work was subsequently bequeathed to the Gallery.

Footnotesback to top

1) Repr. Callow 1908, facing p.146.
2) James Callow; quoted Reynolds 1980, p.153.
3) Callow 1908, p.121.
4) Letters from M.L. Callow to Sir Charles Holmes, 5 Mar. 1929, and to H.M. Hake, 8 Mar. 1929 when she gave its dimensions as 21 x 17 1/2in (533 x 444mm), incl. frame; NPG RP 2937.
5) According to letter from A. Hughes to Agnes Hale White, 21 Feb. 1915, the watercolour had been left in ‘a very unsatisfactory state, and it had to be finished to present it to the R.W.S … an anxious thing to do’; quoted in Roberts & Wildman 1997, p.246 from original MS in Tate Archive. In fact, Mrs Callow retained the watercolour, which was only presented to the RWS after her death in 1937.
6) H.M. Hake, memorandum, 18 Mar. 1929, NPG RP 2356.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head-and-shoulders, profile to right, pink face, grey eye, white hair and beard, black bow tie, light hatching in brown all around.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 2002.

Provenanceback to top

Sitter’s widow, by whom bequeathed 1937.

View all known portraits for William Callow