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William Strang

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William Strang

by William Strang
Black and red chalk on pink-tinted paper, 1902
15 1/8 in. x 10 3/8 in. (383 mm x 262 mm)
NPG 2927

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and dated lower right: ‘W.Strang / 1902’.

This portraitback to top

During his forty years as a professional artist, Strange produced over thirty self-portraits in various media, all notable for accurate and expressive self-scrutiny. Youthful touches of romanticism diminished with age and this example is drawn with more simplicity and less finesse than the majority of the earlier works, chiefly etchings (see ‘All known portraits’). It was executed soon after Strang completed the Adam and Eve series of oils for Laurence Hodson’s house near Wolverhampton, [1] and stylistically marks his progression from fine draughtsmanship in etching to bolder painting in a more modern idiom.

According to Laurence Binyon, around this date Strang ‘hit on a new manner of portrait drawing … using paper prepared with a wash of pink or lilac tint, he drew … with black chalk only; and by erasing the lights and rubbing the chalk where necessary, found a means of expressing the finest shades of modelling in the simplest way’. [2] This is essentially the technique here, with the tint erased on the shirt collar, but with the addition of faint touches of red chalk on ear, nose, inner eye, cheek and chin.

A later critic sees ‘more vigour’ in NPG 2927 than in most of Strang’s work in chalks, and claims that the ‘rush’ of success that Strang was currently experiencing made him blind to ‘the solidifications of middle age’, so that he depicted himself ‘with the youthful look of a man of fewer than his 44 years’. [3]

The portrait formerly belonged to Wilfred Buckley (d.1933) and his wife Bertha (d.1937) whose collection of notable glassware is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, but their connection with Strang is not currently known.

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) See Athill & Goodchild 1981, pp.31–2. In 1902 the series was exhibited in Wolverhampton alongside works by Charles Conder, P.W. Steer, W.R. Sickert and others, and was admired by Sickert in particular for its pictorial strength and boldness.
2) Strang 1912, pp.ix–x.
3) See Athill & Goodchild 1981, no.36.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head-and-shoulders, half-profile to right, looking to viewer, torso turned to right, thick moustache.

Provenanceback to top

Mrs Wilfrid Buckley; her sale Sotheby’s, 7 July 1937 (62); F.R. Meatyard Printseller, from whom purchased Oct. 1937.

Exhibitionsback to top

William Strang RA, 1859–1921, Painter-Etcher, Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, 1980–1981; Glasgow City Art Gallery, 1981; NPG, London, 1981 (36).

View all known portraits for William Strang