The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Charles Francis Annesley Voysey

Charles Francis Annesley Voysey, by Harold Speed, 1896 -NPG 4116 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue Search

Charles Francis Annesley Voysey

by Harold Speed
Red chalks on off-white paper unevenly trimmed outside the ruled borders, laid down on card, 1896
16 1/2 in. x 12 in. (419 mm x 305 mm)
NPG 4116

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and dated in red chalk upper right: ‘HAROLD.SPEED.1896’;
inscr. in red chalk full width below image: ‘CHARLES F.A.VOYSEY’.
On frame front lower edge a small metal plaque inscr.: ‘CHARLES F.A.VOYSEY by HAROLD SPEED’.
On old backboard handwritten label: ‘This portrait is lent to the A.W.G. / on condition that it is offered to / the Trustees of the National Portrait / Gallery ten years after Voysey’s / death in 1951. The Trustees / of the Gallery have expressed a / desire that it should be done.’

This portraitback to top

This is the earlier of two portraits of the sitter by the same artist in the National Portrait Gallery collection. At this date Voysey was approaching forty, with a number of commissions for larger domestic buildings that advanced his reputation.[1] The precise drawing and careful modelling through the use of unmarked areas to mimic highlighting emphasize Voysey’s aquiline features, ‘distinguished by the cut of his nose and the arch of his brow’.[2] These are further delineated by the use of a harder red chalk along the profile outline as well as on the ear and hair. For Speed’s later oil portrait of Voysey, see NPG 5140.

Painter Harold Speed appears to have been a youthful admirer of the sitter.[3] He was a fellow-member of the Art Workers Guild from 1904, and master in 1916. Chiefly a portraitist, he exhibited at the RA 1893–1955; eight other works by him are in the NPG collection. This drawing was commissioned by his uncle R.W. (later Sir Walter) Essex (1857–1940), sometime MP and founder of the wallpaper firm Essex & Co. Voysey, who contributed designs for both papers and showroom furniture, was a personal friend of Essex.

On Essex’s death, his executors returned the portrait to Speed, asking him to give it to a suitable institution. Speed told Edwin Lutyens he thought of offering it to the NPG. ‘Do you think he is worthy of a place there? I think he gave the Morris Movement a Modern turn that has had a great influence on the Arts & Crafts Movement, particularly abroad; and was one of the outstanding architects of our time’.[4] Lutyens forwarded this offer to Henry Hake, who advised Speed of the ‘ten-year rule’ and suggested loaning the drawing to the AWG in the interim, a proposal endorsed by the NPG Trustees in February 1942.[5]

This arrangement is recorded in the old label, whose authorship is unknown, and in somewhat garbled form in the archives of the AWG, where a report dated January 1943 notes that ‘The Trustees under the will of the late Past-Master C.F. Annesley Voysey have bequeathed his portrait, painted by Past-Master Harold Speed, to the National Portrait Gallery’ and that the AWG had accepted temporary custody of the picture.[6].

In 1957, when Speed was again in contact with the NPG, he reminded J.F. Kerslake of the drawing, which he now said had been ‘left in his will to the National Portrait Gallery by the late Sir Walter Essex’.[7] Kerslake asked for the work to be submitted to the Trustees, but before this could happen, Speed died and correspondence was suspended. In 1959, following the Harold Speed memorial exhibition, Charles Kingsley Adams ascertained that it remained with the AWG, which delivered it to the NPG, where it was accepted in October 1959.[8]

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) For example, the stylish Greyfriars on the Hog’s Back, Surrey, for novelist Julian Sturgis.
2) Donat 1941, p.193.
3) An unsigned portrait dating from around 1888 has been attributed to Speed, who would have been about 16 at that date. They may in fact have met through the St John’s Wood Arts Club (see NPG 4404) although in the 1890s Speed was based in Chelsea.
4) Letter from H. Speed to E. Lutyens, 4 Dec. 1941, NPG RP 4116.
5) A note in NPG RP 4116 states that it was ‘offered through the artist, 1942’.
6) Quoted in letter from Llewellyn Smith to C.K. Adams, 18 Oct. 1959, NPG RP 4116. This is doubly confusing, as it not only states that the portrait was bequeathed by Voysey (rather than Essex) but also appears to refer to a painting rather than a chalk drawing.
7) Letter from H. Speed to J.F. Kerslake, 7 Feb. 1957, NPG RP 4116.
8) Following some confusion over the oil portrait by Speed, which was offered for purchase at the same time.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head-and-shoulders, profile to right, hair swept back, wearing white shirt and darker tie with ring.

Provenanceback to top

Sir Walter Essex to 1941; on loan to Art Workers Guild 1942–59; Sir Walter Essex to 1941; on loan to Art Workers Guild 1942–59; bequeathed by the artist; accessioned 1959.

Exhibitionsback to top

Possibly that exh. Royal Society of Portrait Painters 1897 (80).

C.F.A. Voysey: Architect and Designer 1857–1941, Brighton Art Gallery & Museum, 1978; Hessischen Landesmuseum, Darmstadt, 1978; Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 1979; Glasgow City Art Gallery, 1979 (A3).

Reproductionsback to top

Unidentified publication; cutting in RIBA Archive, 35332/27.

Manchester Daily Telegraph, 20 June 1972.

Brandon-Jones et al. 1978, frontispiece.

Hitchmough 1995, half-title.

View all known portraits for Charles Francis Annesley Voysey


Become a Member

Enjoy access to special events, discounts on the Gallery online shop, supporters’ updates and much more

Join today

Get social

Bringing people together by sharing the portraits and stories of the men and women who have shaped our nation.

Facebook Instagram Twitter


Sign up to receive information on exhibitions, collections and activities of the National Portrait Gallery, including special offers, shop products, and exclusive competitions.

Sign up