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Henry Courtney Selous

Henry Courtney Selous, by Henry Courtney Selous, 1871 -NPG 4848 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Henry Courtney Selous

by Henry Courtney Selous
Oil on canvas, 1871
21 in. x 17 in. (533 mm x 432 mm)
NPG 4848

Inscriptionback to top

Signed with initials and dated on a painted trompe-l’oeil label, decorated with armorial shield, top right-hand corner: ‘H.G.S. 1871’.
On back, on top stretcher bar inscr. in pencil: ‘painted 1871 H. C.SELOUS – 1811–90’;
and W. Freeman & Sons label.

This portraitback to top

The portrait of Henry Selous was offered to the National Portrait Gallery by Mr Alan Wainwright in 1928 and submitted to the Trustees on 28 February 1929, when it was declined. [1] Never collected, it remained in store until 1971 when it was accessioned, relined and cleaned.

It was probably rejected by the Trustees on grounds of the sitter’s artistic reputation in the 1920s, thirty years after his death: Selous had been a popular artist yet he had not earned a notice in the early editions of the Dictionary of National Biography. The work of such artists was totally devalued after the First World War. Nowadays, however, the picture is recognized and appreciated on several levels: as an artist self-portrait, as a skilfully planned and lit composition, and, most importantly, as the only extant painted image of an artist who was significant in his day.

In 1871, the date of the painting, Selous’s address was 28 Gloucester Road, Regent’s Park, London. [2] He was then in his late sixties, his reputation established due to a mixture of talent and hard work in various branches of art – as illustrator, designer, portraitist and even fresco painter. Two of his best-known works, the large history paintings Jerusalem in Her Grandeur and Jerusalem in Her Fall, were touring major British cities before shipment to New York and exhibition there in March 1872. [3]

In 1981 the Gallery purchased a drawing by Selous of Sir Henry Irving (NPG 5400).

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) See letter from A. Wainwright, 28 Dec. 1928, NPG RP 4848, offer no.121/28.
2) RA Summer exh. cat. 1871.
3) Paintings now untraced. See ILN, 11 Oct. 1890, p.254 (obits); and Cronquist 1997, p.37 n.7.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head-and-shoulders, full-face, brown hair around domed forehead, grey beard and moustache, holding in front of him palette and four brushes in left hand.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1971.

Provenanceback to top

Offered as a gift by Alan Wainwright, 1929; accessioned 1971.

Reproductionsback to top

Cronquist 1997, p.36.

View all known portraits for Henry Courtney Selous


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