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Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson, by William Cumberland Cruikshank; James Hoskins, 1784 -NPG 4685 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Samuel Johnson

by William Cumberland Cruikshank, and James Hoskins
1784
24 1/2 in. (622 mm) high
NPG 4685

This portraitback to top

William Cruikshank, who had attended Johnson at his death, told his daughter that NPG 4685 was ‘from a cast after [Johnson’s] death' and that ‘all Dr Johnson’s friends had one of them’. [1] Immediately after Johnson’s death, Joshua Reynolds had ‘ordered Mr [James] Hoskins, in St Martin’s Lane, caster of figures to the Royal Academy, to make a plaster of Paris cast from his face’, [2] and a ‘plaister bust of Dr Johnson moulded after his death’ was in the Thomond sale, 26 May 1821, lot 48. A cast of the death mask is preserved in the Department of Anatomy, University of Edinburgh, [3] and two plaster casts from NPG 4685 were taken by Brucciani for the NPG in 1878. [4]
In 1796 a correspondent of the Gentleman’s Magazine recorded seeing a death mask of Johnson ‘some time since’ at ‘Mr Coade’s, the artificial stone maker, near Westminster Bridge’. [5]

Footnotesback to top

1) Letter from his daughter Mrs A. Thomas, [n.d., probably 1844], to her son-in-law, William Hutchins.
2) The Beauties of Johnson, 1797 ed., p XCIX. See also Thomas Tyers, Biography of Dr Samuel Johnson, 1785 ed., p 22: Johnson’s ‘face and shoulders were moulded and taken off since his death ... by Hoskins of St Martin’s-lane, from which a bust is made’ (quoted Johnson, Arts Council, 1984, p 137).
3) Death Masks and Life Masks, Edinburgh University, [1988], p 17.
4) NPG 498a and 498b, the latter exhibited Samuel Johnson, Londoner, Royal Exchange, London, 1964.
5) Gentleman's Magazine, LXVI, 1796, I, p 298.

Provenanceback to top

1 William Cruikshank (Johnson’s physician); his daughter Mrs A. Thomas; given in 1844 to her son-in-law, William Hutchins; given in 1864 to the Royal Literary Fund, by whom presented 1969.

1 Taken from corr. copied from The Royal Literary Fund (including letters from Mrs A. Thomas to W. Hutchins, n.d., and from Mrs Isabella Hutchins to Scharf 28 November [1877?]).

Exhibitionsback to top

Johnson, Arts Council, 1984 (105).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, 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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