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Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree

6 of 57 portraits of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, by Harry Furniss,  -NPG 6251(62) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree

by Harry Furniss
Pen and ink on card, with traces of blue pencil
10 3/4 in. x 6 3/8 in. (273 mm x 162 mm)
NPG 6251(62)

Inscriptionback to top

Signed in ink lower left: ‘Hy.F.’;
inscr. in ink at bottom: ‘Sir Beerbohm Tree in his Youth’;
inscr. in pencil at top: ‘23’.

On reverse inscr. in pencil at top: ‘reproduced in My Bohemian Days, 1919, p.56’;
inscr. in pencil in centre: ‘13’.

This portraitback to top

Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s height and red hair were his most striking features as a young man. Max Beerbohm, his half-brother and 19 years his junior, looked up to him: ‘Herbert seemed very tall … and his hair was of a very bright red.’ [1] Edmund Gosse observed Tree’s self-fashioning also: ‘In youth … he had not arrived at that impressiveness which he achieved at last. He was then, in fact, – with his red hair, his pale complexion and faint eyes, – the reverse of impressive off the stage, and I think he may have adopted what I call his “elegance” of manner in order to remove this deficiency.’ [2]

Harry Furniss first met Tree, a ‘tall, slim reddish-headed, irresponsible youth’ with a talent for parodies, at one of his own studio parties in Newman Street in the West End of London. [3] NPG 6251(62) shows him at that time: an 1870s image though possibly drawn later; not a caricature. Furniss’s books My Bohemian Days and Paradise in Piccadilly abound in descriptions of Tree at different points in his life, including sharply observed passages on the friction between Tree and Sir Henry Irving. [4]

See NPG Portrait Set ‘Drawings by Harry Furniss, late 19th–early 20th century’, transferred from the Gallery’s Reference Collection in 1994.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) M. Beerbohm, ‘From a Brother’s Standpoint’, in Beerbohm [1920], p.188.
2) E. Gosse, ‘A Sketch’, in Beerbohm [1920], p.203.
3) Furniss 1919, p.58. ‘I had the pleasure of numbering Sir Herbert Tree as one of my friends some time before he adopted the stage as his profession’ (ibid., p.212).
4) Furniss 1925, pp.55–6.

Physical descriptionback to top

Three-quarter-length standing, head to left, left hand in pocket, holding hat and stick in right hand.

Provenanceback to top

Transferred from the NPG Reference Collection, 1994.

Reproductionsback to top

Furniss 1919, p.57.

View all known portraits for Harry Furniss

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