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Sir George Scharf

Sir George Scharf, by Sir George Scharf, 1869 -NPG 5344 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir George Scharf

by Sir George Scharf
Pen and (iron gall) ink on wove paper, 1869
7 in. x 4 3/8 in. (178 mm x 111 mm)
NPG 5344

Inscriptionback to top

Inscr. in ink below image: ‘Possible situation of GS. at the critical / hour of Midnight, between the years / 1869–1870. / IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.’;
and within image: ‘I’VE GOT NO WHERE TO GO.OO’, ‘SHAKSPE… / NOT…’, ‘REMOVED’ and ‘Pleasemen’ [policemen].

This portraitback to top

This caricature was probably drawn in early 1869, soon after it was decided to move the National Portrait Gallery collections from 29 Great George Street to a part of the South Kensington Museum. [1]

As the institution’s Secretary, Scharf had lived over the Gallery since 1859, so the prospect of a double move, though welcome for the collection, must have been disturbing. He started looking for new accommodation in June, and rooms were found at 8 Ashley Place on 20 July 1869. [2] Presumably after this he would not have been so worried about homelessness (‘in the middle of the street’) to pen such a sketch.

The moves took place in December. ‘Slept in my own bedroom & for the last time at 29 Gt. George St. Westminster,’ he noted on 17 December. [3] He oversaw the removal of paintings and sculpture to South Kensington between 20 and 24 December. Both moves were completed by Christmas Day.

Unusually for portraits of Scharf, NPG 5344 was not part of his 1895 bequest to the NPG. It originally formed part of an album of watercolours by the Hon. Charles Stewart Hardinge, later Viscount Hardinge, who was a trustee and a friend of Scharf’s (see ‘All known portraits, By other artists, 1882’). In 1980 the drawing was offered to the Gallery by J.S. Maas & Co. Ltd for what was considered an expensive sum: ‘I gather the price is £200, which must be a world record for Scharf’, wrote the Deputy Director R.L. Ormond to the gallery director Jeremy Maas, ‘but you have us by the short hairs. Do we get a small discount?’ [4] In the end the drawing was sold to the Gallery in a personal transaction by Maas, at the lower price of £160.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) See NPG Annual Report 1870. Ten years earlier Scharf was already complaining about the lack of display areas in Great George St; see NPG Annual Report 1860.
2) NPG Sir George Scharf Papers (Personal diary 1869, NPG7/3/1/26, NPG Archive). He lived at Ashley Place for the rest of his life.
3) NPG Sir George Scharf Papers (Personal diary 1869, NPG7/3/1/26, NPG Archive).
4) Letter from R.L. Ormond to J. Maas, 27 Oct. 1980, NPG RP 5344.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length, full-face, with hat and spectacles, seated in the street (as a beggar) in a heap of paintings, outside his home and Gallery premises, 29 Great George Street.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1981.

Provenanceback to top

Private purchase from Jeremy Maas, 1980.

Exhibitionsback to top

Sir George Scharf, 1820–1895, NPG, London, 2005–6 (no catalogue).

Reproductionsback to top

Slatter c.1994, p.15.

Hulme, Buchanan & Powell 2000, p.28.

Cannadine 2007, frontispiece (detail).

View all known portraits for Sir George Scharf


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