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William Powell Frith

William Powell Frith, by Mabel Dickenson Lapthorn, 1909 -NPG 5058 - © Miss G.E. Lapthorn

© Miss G.E. Lapthorn

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William Powell Frith

by Mabel Dickenson Lapthorn
Chalks on paper, 1909
14 1/2 in. x 10 1/2 in. (368 mm x 267 mm)
NPG 5058

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and dated lower right: ‘Mabel D Lapthorn 1909’.

This portraitback to top

Drawn in the last months of the sitter’s life, when he was 90 years old, this portrait conveys not just his age but also what has been described as ‘the greyness of the artist’s Edwardian years’,[1] when his once-impressive status and reputation had dwindled as his artistic style and subjects were eclipsed by new movements and tastes. He had ceased to exhibit in 1902, but continued to paint, and his last honour was the award of the Royal Victorian Order in 1908.

Very little is known of the artist, Mabel Dickenson Lapthorn, who was living in Marylebone and aged about 20 when she drew Frith.[2] Known for watercolours and illustration, she exhibited from 1913 to 1926. According to her sister, Lapthorn’s ‘greatest interest was movement, actual and potential. She said a portrait should suggest a whole life, its beginnings and the height it could attain.’[3]

Taken together, the National Portrait Gallery’s three portraits of Frith show him at all phases of his life: in youth, middle and old age.

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

[1] Letter from G.E. Lapthorn to K.K. Yung, 4 Jan. 1975, NPG RP 5058.
[2] One source claims she was born in Australia and studied art in London but this is yet to be verified, along with further details of her life and career.
[3] Letter from G.E. Lapthorn to K.K. Yung, 4. Jan. 1975, NPG RP 5058.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head-and-shoulders, looking down towards left.

Provenanceback to top

Gift from Gertrude E. Lapthorn, the artist’s sister.

Reproductionsback to top

Noakes 1978, p.152.

View all known portraits for William Powell Frith

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