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Walford Graham Robertson

Walford Graham Robertson, by Frederick Hollyer, circa 1890-1893 -NPG P47 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Walford Graham Robertson

by Frederick Hollyer
Platinum print, circa 1890-1893
5 3/4 in. x 4 in. (146 mm x 102 mm)

Inscriptionback to top

On original mount, now removed (photocopy in NPG RP P47), signed in ink across bottom: ‘Fredk Hollyer / 9 Pembroke Sqre / Kensington W’;
inscr. in ink top left: ‘No.3593’;
and in pencil centre: ‘W.Graham Robertson’.

This portraitback to top

By the 1890s, Robertson was a notable young painter and aesthete in his twenties; here he appears even younger, the beardless boyish image accentuated by the theatrical Hamlet-style shirt. In one variant pose from the same sitting (see ‘All known portraits, Photographs, c.1890–93’), Robertson wears white trousers with the shirt, and stands by a window with a large parrot perched on his right shoulder.

Frederick Hollyer established a business in the photographic reproduction of works of art, notably the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites and the drawings of Edward Burne-Jones. As a relaxation he photographed people, and at his studio on Pembroke Square, London, Mondays were reserved for portraiture. His portrait prints, with their limited range of tone and distinctive mounts, have a rare delicacy and beauty. His sitters are unselfconsciously posed and softly lit, their characters revealed with sympathy and understanding. Many belonged to artistic and Aesthetic circles and it may be significant that Robertson was a pupil of Albert Moore, one of Hollyer’s more established sitters. At the same time, Robertson’s features in this photograph bear a strong resemblance to those depicted in John Singer Sargent’s famous portrait of Robertson in a long coat which was at the Royal Academy in 1895 (see ‘All known portraits, By other artists, 1894’) and which may have influenced Hollyer’s presentation. Later in life Hollyer assembled an important group of portraits into three albums now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The museum’s website notes that one strain of this work illustrates ‘the self-fashioning of the 1890s dandy aesthete’,[1] a description which well fits the intense gaze and romantic billowing shirt seen in the present work, although this image of Robertson was not included by Hollyer in his albums.

Purchased at auction in 1977, the print was accompanied by other photographs of Robertson, and may have come from the collection of Robertson’s friend and editor Kerrison Preston.

Magdalene Keaney

Physical descriptionback to top

Half-length to front, wearing loose white shirt, right hand to collar, wearing ring on fourth finger.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1981.

Provenanceback to top

Purchased Christie’s, 27 October 1977 (407).

View all known portraits for Walford Graham Robertson

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