4 of 15 portraits of Phil May
- Extended catalogue entry
by Phil May
Black chalk on paper, late 1890s
14 3/8 in. x 6 3/4 in. (365 mm x 172 mm) overall
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’.  The information is important as there were quantities of May sketches in circulation, among them fakes and forgeries. 
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
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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