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Phil May

Phil May, by Phil May, late 1890s -NPG 2661 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Phil May

by Phil May
Black chalk on paper, late 1890s
14 3/8 in. x 6 3/4 in. (365 mm x 172 mm) overall
NPG 2661

Inscriptionback to top

Remounted and conserved, 1985. Paper backed on paper, but looping patterns on reverse still visible.

This portraitback to top

Phil May draws himself as a toy soldier or grenadier guard with a subversive grin, his head topped by a bearskin hat: a large doodle on cheap torn and crumpled paper. The head is a typical, left-profile ‘lightning’ caricature, the sort May would dash off for friends and hangers-on – and to pacify his creditors. It was probably done in the 1890s/early 1900s but is impossible to date more precisely.

The drawing was offered as a gift by Miss Jane A.J. Harrison of Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, in 1932, and accepted in 1934. ‘[Miss Harrison] told me the drawing was given to her by a man who knew May intimately, and was there when the drawing was made’. [1] The information is important as there were quantities of May sketches in circulation, among them fakes and forgeries. [2]

Footnotesback to top

1) Memorandum, J. Steegman to H.M. Hake, 30 Apr. 1932.
2) ‘...a great number of forged drawings purporting to be the work of Phil May got on to the market a year or two ago [and] were bought in good faith by booksellers and other dealers’; Morrison 1906, p.680.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length, profile to left, standing.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1985.

Provenanceback to top

Given by Miss Jane A.J. Harrison, 1934.

Reproductionsback to top

Repr. NPG, CIC, 2004.

View all known portraits for Philip William ('Phil') May

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