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Arthur Wrottesley, 3rd Baron Wrottesley

Arthur Wrottesley, 3rd Baron Wrottesley, by Harold Wright ('Stuff'), published in Vanity Fair 20 June 1895 -NPG 2972 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Arthur Wrottesley, 3rd Baron Wrottesley

by Harold Wright ('Stuff')
Watercolour with bodycolour and traces of pencil on blue paper, published in Vanity Fair 20 June 1895
15 7/8 in. x 9 5/8 in. (403 mm x 244 mm) overall
NPG 2972

Inscriptionback to top

Signed in watercolour over pencil, lower left: ‘STUFF’;
inscr. in pencil along ruled lines around the drawing:
(a) at top edge: ‘Lord Wrottesley Ex Ld Lieutenant of Staffordshire / fecit Stafford May 20th/95’;
(b) right edge: ?‘Baron’s / Coronet’ and ‘no / shadow / of / stick’;
(c) bottom left: ‘92’.
Printed caption, formerly part of secondary support of Ingres paper (removed to NPG RP 2972): ‘June 20th, 1895. / LORD WROTTESLEY. / (Original Drawing.)’.

This portraitback to top

In November 1938, at the end of a golden decade for its Vanity Fair cartoon purchases, the National Portrait Gallery acquired three of four lots of ‘original drawings of cartoons for Vanity Fair’, at a sale at Hodgson & Co, 115 Chancery Lane, London. [1] The cost of the 52 drawings was £17.5s. The majority were by Sir Leslie Ward (‘Spy’) but two were by ‘Stuff’: NPG 2972 and NPG 2995, of Sir John Rigby, Solicitor-General; both were drawn in the 1890s. [2]

Harold Wright, who signed ‘Stuff’ (or ‘Stuff Gownsman’ or ‘Stuff G.’) was a lawyer who rose to become stipendiary magistrate for North Staffordshire from 1893 to 1904. [3] He was also a brilliant amateur cartoonist. In an interview with ‘D.W.’ of the Sketch in 1893, cited in the Windsor Magazine in 1896, [4] he explained how it all began: ‘When I was called to the bar [in 1880] I used to amuse myself with sketching in court.’ His drawings of the Parnell Commission, published anonymously in 1890 as by ‘A Stuff Gownsman’, brought him to the attention of the editor of Vanity Fair. [5] He went on to produce 23 caricatures for the magazine, published as chromolithographs between 1891 and 1900. Wright specialized in legal caricatures until 1893, when his own appointment as magistrate made more such subjects impossible. The NPG owns drawings for seven of the 23 caricatures that Harold Wright produced for Vanity Fair. [6]

In 1893 the journalist ‘D.W.’ quizzed Wright on his future as a cartoonist: ‘“Since you have been in the Potteries I suppose your pencil has been less busy?” “Well, yes: except that I’ve promised my old friends of Vanity Fair to give them now and then some cartoon of a ‘Staffordshire worthy,’ I do little or nothing.”’ [7] Wright’s drawing of Arthur Wrottesley falls into just this category. Characteristic of ‘Stuff’ is the finely drawn head, particularizing the lineaments of the face, and the stance – here an aged foxhunter’s crouch; and the whole adds up to a mild-mannered caricature by one Staffordshire gentleman of another.

An inscription at the top margin of the drawing notes that the likeness was made on 20 May 1895, in Stafford. A month later, 20 June 1895, the chromolithograph by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son appeared in Vanity Fair (Statesmen – no.DCLIV, captioned ‘A Staffordshire Peer’). Of the baron’s coronet and coat of arms in the drawing only the coronet appears in the print, which is in every other respect faithful.

In the critical literature on Vanity Fair and 19th-century illustration, and on the internet, [8] the acronym ‘Stuff’ is routinely and mistakenly linked with the illustrator and war artist Henry Charles Seppings Wright (1850–1937). [9] The mistake took root in the 20th century. However, the two articles of the 1890s mentioned above establish beyond doubt that ‘Stuff’ was the nom de crayon of the lawyer Harold Wright.

See NPG 2566–2606, 2698–2746, 2964–3012, 3265–3300 and 4707(1–30)

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Hodgson & Co, 2 Nov. 1938, lots 529, 530 and 532 (lot 531, 15 drawings for Vanity Fair of judges and barristers, was not acquired). It is unclear in which lot was the drawing of Wrottesley. For a copy of the sale catalogue see NPG RP 2964–3012.
2) For the published Rigby caricature, see Vanity Fair, 31 Aug. 1893.
3) The Times, 30 Dec. 1908, p.9 (obits); Who Was Who 1920, p.577.
4) ‘D.W.’, ‘The Stipendiary Magistrate as Sketcher. A chat with “Stuff” of Vanity Fair’, The Sketch, 5 April 1893, pp.577–8; cited in Symon 1896, pp.713–14.
5) A Stuff Gownsman, Report of the Parnell Commission, Enfield, [1890]. A plain ‘stuff’ gownsman was junior to a ‘silk’ one, so the image refers to a barrister who is not a QC/KC; see Barrère & Leland 1889–90.
6) As well as Wrottesley, NPG 2972, see Francis Schnadhorst, NPG 1774a; Sir John Rigby, NPG 2995; Alfred Cock, NPG 3297; Robert Brudenell Carter, NPG 3298; George Denman, NPG 3299; Edward Littleton, 3rd Viscount Hatherton, NPG 4605; and James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce, NPG 6749 (the drawing of Bryce was not published in Vanity Fair).
7) Symon 1896, p.714.
8) For example, Wikimedia Commons.
9) For example, Harris & Ormond 1976, p.30; Matthews & Mellini 1982, p.213; Collens 1990, p.117; and Houfe 1996, p.357. See also V&A website, under ‘Seppings Wright’.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length, three quarters to left, standing, white hair, moustache and beard, wearing a beige covert coat and grey check trousers, carrying a homburg hat in his right hand and a riding stick in his left.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1986.

Provenanceback to top

Messrs Puttick and Simpson, 17 March 1916, lot 133; Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 28 October 1912, lot 443, purchased by ‘Liston’, £2.5s; Hodgson & Co, 2 November 1938, part of lots 529, 530, 532, purchased by the Gallery.

Reproductionsback to top

Copies of the print after NPG 2972
Chromolithograph by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Vanity Fair, 20 June 1895; copy coll. NPG D44756.

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