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Linley Sambourne

Linley Sambourne, by Linley Sambourne, 1891 -NPG 3034 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Linley Sambourne

by Linley Sambourne
Pen and ink and traces of pencil on paper, 1891
7 1/2 in. x 6 3/8 in. (192 mm x 162 mm) overall
NPG 3034

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and inscr. lower centre: ‘Linley Sambourne / [...?] Sept. 1891.’
Three labels (now removed to NPG RP 3034):
(a) inscr.: ‘M.H. Spielmann / 21 Cadogan Gardens / S.W.’
(b) printed label for Punch Exhibition inscr.: ‘M.H. Spielmann’.
(c) printed label for Academy of Arts, Newcastle-on-Tyne, inscr. ‘156A’ and ‘M.H. Spielmann / 21, Cadogan Gardens’ [return address].

This portraitback to top

This drawing was produced in connexion with the second of two articles on political satire that Sambourne wrote for the Magazine of Art in 1892, commissioned by the editor Marion Harry Spielmann. It was engraved by J. Swain. [1] Spielmann used it again to illustrate his own The History of Punch (1895, p.530). In 1939 Spielmann presented the drawing, and other artist self-portraits collected during his editorship, as a gift to the National Portrait Gallery.

Self-portraiture was a rare exercise for Linley Sambourne. NPG 3034 is actually based on a cabinet card photograph by Alexander Bassano of which there are prints of related poses in the Linley Sambourne Family Archive, dated c.1890. [2] In the drawing Sambourne has given himself a younger appearance (larger eyes, more hair, a leaner face) and added a pen in his left hand, but otherwise copied the photograph exactly. The pen work of hatching and cross-hatching is remarkably controlled. Drawing from photographs was his method for meeting a weekly deadline: ‘Often I cannot get the model I require at a moment’s notice, and where there is not this difficulty there is the other – that by artificial light I cannot see to draw from a model. I use the camera instead, for I do not agree with those artists who condemn the use of photography altogether. On the contrary I find it a very useful adjunct to art.’ [3].

Sambourne recorded taking his first photographs in 1883. He took (and bought) thousands more, for visual reference, filing them in cabinets around the studio. Photography usually took place in the yard behind his house in Stafford Terrace: ‘[Sambourne’s] servant poses as every character under the sun while he is photographed by his master, who then runs inside to develop the plate and make a dash at his drawing.’ [4] There were also hundreds of ‘action’ self-portrait photographs taken with various ‘folding-bellows’ stand cameras. That he chose not to photograph himself specially for the 1891 illustration reflects his busy, pragmatic attitude to photography and drawing. Photography was essentially a means to an end. To the interviewer who asked him in 1893, ‘And are you fond of photography?’ Sambourne replied, ‘No, I can’t honestly say that I am.’ [5]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) L. Sambourne, ‘Political Cartoons’ (pt. II), MA, 1892, pp.42–6. See also Ormond 2010, p.242, fig.96.
2) See ‘All known portraits, Photographs’ for these and other Bassano portraits of Sambourne.
3) Westminster Budget, 2 June 1893, p.12.
4) Spielmann 1895a, p.535.
5) ILN, 28 Jan. 1893, p.122.

Physical descriptionback to top

Half-length, full-face, seated astride a chair, head resting against right hand, pen in left hand.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1987.

Provenanceback to top

Given by Marion Harry Spielmann in 1939.

Exhibitionsback to top

See under ‘Inscription’ for undated exhibition labels.

Reproductionsback to top

Magazine of Art, 1891–2, p.45. Spielmann 1895a, p.530. McMaster 2009, front cover (with sketch of Mr Punch seated at easel, adapted from {Richard Doyle}’s design for the magazine cover).

View all known portraits for (Edward) Linley Sambourne