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Mrs Patrick Campbell

Mrs Patrick Campbell, by Frederick Hollyer, 1893 -NPG P229 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Mrs Patrick Campbell

by Frederick Hollyer
Platinotype cabinet card, 1893
5 1/2 in. x 3 1/2 in. (140 mm x 89 mm)
NPG P229

Inscriptionback to top

On reverse of card inscr. in pen and black ink top left: ‘No2355’;
in pencil below: ‘Mrs Patrick Campbell’;
in pencil (more recent hand): ‘$75’;
in pen and red ink (?Hollyer’s hand): ‘Fredr Hollyer / 9 Pembroke Sqre / Kensington W / copyright registered’.

This portraitback to top

On 27 May 1893, in the space of one evening, Mrs Patrick Campbell went from jobbing actress to newest star of the London stage. Playing ‘a woman with a past’ in Arthur Wing Pinero’s The Second Mrs Tanqueray, her acting was so good that to her dismay she found herself being held up as a real-life Paula Tanqueray. In her autobiography she wrote:

I was surrounded by what seemed to me intolerable curiosity. There were searching, thrill-seeking questions and strange, critical glances which offended me … Did anyone see me as I was, I wonder? A fragile, unsophisticated young woman, still almost a girl, whose heart and nerves had been torn by poverty, illness, and the cruel strain of a long separation from the husband she loved. [1]

With celebrity came a demand for images, which studios such as Mayall & Co., W. & D. Downey and especially Alfred Ellis were quick to supply; see ‘All known portraits, In stage character, The Second Mrs Tanqueray’ for images of Campbell as Paula Tanqueray.

Sitting to Frederick Hollyer would have been a different experience. A long-established photographer of Old Master and Pre-Raphaelite art, his platinotype reproductions were precious collectables in their own right. [2] As relaxation from this exacting work, Hollyer kept Mondays free for portrait sittings. When Campbell visited his studio she was joining a long line of distinguished sitters of the 1880s and 1890s and, like the actress Ellen Terry before her (see NPG x16968), she posed not in character but as herself. [3]

Three exquisite photographs resulted from the sitting(s), and they reflect Hollyer’s familiarity with Pre-Raphaelitism. [4] In two of the poses Campbell is backlit, languorous and coolly wary (e.g. NPG x137823); in the third, less well-known image, NPG P229, she is posed on a low bench against dark panelling, directly lit, and looks especially fragile. [5] In these silvery-brown prints, innocent of any retouching, Hollyer tackles ‘almost insuperable’ technical difficulties as he works to reconcile the white-on-white tones of Campbell’s pale skin with the light-coloured dresses. [6] The dress in P229 suggests a summer date for the sitting, probably during Tanqueray’s wildly successful early months, May to July 1893. Around her uncovered throat [7] hangs the ‘Pat’ name necklace she wore while her husband was away in Africa. Hollyer held occasional exhibitions at his Pembroke Square studios, and a photograph of Campbell (no details) was shown in a portrait exhibition there in 1906. [8]

Around the time of Tanqueray Campbell began to develop her unusual style of dress. It was at this period, she wrote, that ‘clothes began to matter, and to fuss me. To feel dressed up was misery, and to be dowdy – impossible.’ [9] An interviewer wrote in 1895: ‘Mrs Campbell is as well up in the mysteries of successful dressing as is the great Sarah Bernhardt. She seems to have a special love for fur, passementerie, and lace, from the rich guipure to the cobwebby, snow-white dentelle.’ [10] The elaborate layered lace-and-ribbon dress in P229 illustrates the point.

Hollyer is well represented at the National Portrait Gallery with over a hundred photographs, of which thirty-eight are, like P229, platinotype cabinet cards. The photograph is in mint condition and still attached to its original mount of blue card with a ruled black and gold border, and bears studio inscriptions on the reverse. It was purchased in July 1983 from the Witkin Gallery, New York, for $75 (then roughly £50). [11]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Campbell 1922, p.81.
2) On a Hollyer print of Hobbema’s The Avenue at Middelharnis, the photographer Alfred Horsley Hinton commented: ‘Here was a black and white copy of a Dutch master’s rich and subtle colouring, in which the colour sense was so truly given that one almost forgot the fact that it was monochrome’ (Horsley Hinton 1903, p.353.
3) For other platinotype cabinet cards by Hollyer in the Gallery collection, dated early 1890s and showing the same dark panelled background as NPG P229, see NPG x19855 and NPG x19858 (May Morris); and NPG x12457 (Pinero). (Hollyer’s studio photographs of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones belong to the 1880s.)
4) For details of Hollyer’s prints of Campbell see ‘All known portraits, In private character, Photographs, 1893’.
5) In early 1893 Campbell was still recovering from typhoid fever.
6) The poet Theodore Wratislaw remarked on another Hollyer photograph, ‘The White Frock’, exh. 1894: ‘The most remarkable photograph in the Gallery was an achievement by Mr. Frederick Hollyer, in which he has conquered, it would seem, almost insuperable technical difficulties. In The White Frock he has placed a girl at an open door with the sunlight full on her face, and yet he has preserved the whiteness of the face and the relative tones of light in the sky and on the face and dress’ (Wratislaw 1894, p.69).
7) ‘In those days most women hid their throats in folds of écru net in the fashion of the lovely Marchioness of Granby. My throat was always bare’ (Campbell 1922, p.64).
8) See Tilney 1906, p.845. It is unknown which of the poses was exhibited.
9) Campbell 1922, p.82.
10) Griffith 1895, p.265. ‘Passementerie’: decorative trimming; ‘guipure’: a type of heavy lace (‘dentelle’).
11) The Witkin Gallery acquired the photograph at a book fair in San Francisco in Feb. 1983; see NPG RP 229.

Physical descriptionback to top

Three-quarter-length seated on wooden bench against a panelled background, head three-quarters to right, looking downwards, wearing a lacy dress.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1994.

Provenanceback to top

Purchased from the Witkin Gallery, New York, July 1983.

Exhibitionsback to top

Camera Portraits, NPG, London, 1989 (and three other venues, 1990–91) (59).

Reproductionsback to top

Rogers 1989, no.59, pp.134–5.


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