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Sir Edmund Lechmere, 3rd Bt

Sir Edmund Lechmere, 3rd Bt, by Théobald Chartran ('T'), published in Vanity Fair 23 June 1883 -NPG 4628 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir Edmund Lechmere, 3rd Bt

by Théobald Chartran ('T')
Watercolour with gouache, pencil and charcoal on blue paper, mounted on brown Ingres paper, published in Vanity Fair 23 June 1883
12 1/8 in. x 7 1/4 in. (309 mm x 183 mm) overall
NPG 4628

Inscriptionback to top

Signed in soft pencil lower right: ‘T’.
On reverse inscr. in pencil: ‘Sir Edmund Leitchmertz’.
On mount inscr. in pen and black ink: ‘Sir Edmund A Harley Lechmere, Bart, M.P. / June 23 1883.’

This portraitback to top

From Vanity Fair’s launch in 1869 and during its early years, the editor, Thomas Gibson Bowles, favoured continental artists for the full-page portrait feature. [1] James Tissot was a regular favourite; when he returned to Paris in 1877 his place was taken by another French painter, Théobald Chartran. Bowles gave him plum figures to draw, including the President of France, Jules Grévy; Umberto I, King of Italy; Emile Zola; Giuseppe Verdi; Giuseppe Garibaldi; and Pope Leo XIII. But the success of Vanity Fair depended on ‘irreverent satire’, and this was not Chartran’s style, as can be seen in his subtle characterisation of Sir Edmund Lechmere in NPG 4628. Bowles could not afford to publish too many such well-mannered drawings, and in 1884 Chartran too returned to Paris. [2]

The print after the drawing appeared in Vanity Fair on 23 June 1883, captioned ‘St. John of Jerusalem’. [3] In the spring of 1883 Lechmere, secretary general of the Order of St John, played a crucial role in purchasing a site for an eye hospital in Jerusalem. This had been in the news, and the print’s enigmatic caption was actually a clear reference to Lechmere and his philanthropy.

This drawing was part of a lot of 14 drawings and three prints, all Vanity Fair material, bought by P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Ltd. from Sotheby’s on 3 October 1968 (24). A few days later the National Portrait Gallery purchased ten of the drawings (NPG 4627–4636) from Colnaghi for £140. A number were and remain, like NPG 4628, attached to a mount of brown Ingres paper decorated with inked lines and labels identifying the subject and date of publication.

In keeping with his reputation for modesty, Lechmere has a small iconography in which this drawing occupies a significant place.

See NPG collection 2566–2606, 2698–2746, 2964–3012, 3265–3300, 4605–4611, 4627–4636, 4707(1–30), 4711–4758.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) For details on Bowles’s favoured artists, see Harris & Ormond 1976, pp.4–13.
2) In 1881 Chartran exhibited an oils portrait of Bowles at the RA (370). For Vanity Fair he produced 68 drawings, including group scenes for the biennial ‘season numbers’, before returning to France in 1884. He received one last Vanity Fair commission in 1887.
3) For a reference to the Lechmere print, see Matthews & Mellini 1982, p.227.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length to left, standing, hands clasped behind back; brown hair, ruddy complexion, reddish moustache and beard (chin is clean-shaven); wearing a grey suit and black shoes.

Provenanceback to top

Christie, Manson & Wood, 5 Mar. 1912 (447); Sotheby’s, 3 Oct. 1968 (24); P.& D. Colnaghi Ltd. from whom purchased, October 1968.

Reproductionsback to top

Copies of the print after NPG 4628
Chromolithograph by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Vanity Fair, 23 June 1883; copies colls NPG D44126; and L. and M. of Freemasonry, London, GBR 1991 P 10/9/90.

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