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William Burges

William Burges, by Henry Van der Weyde, circa 1878-1881 -NPG P552 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue Search

William Burges

after Henry Van der Weyde
Watercolour, body colour and gum arabic over albumen print laid down on card, circa 1878-1881
12 in. x 9 1/2 in. (305 mm x 241 mm)
NPG P552

Inscriptionback to top

Gilt oak frame with gilt tablet inscr.: ‘WILLIAM BURGES A.R.A. / 1827–1881 / Architect’.
Old backboard, two labels:
(a) ‘WILLIAM BURGES. ARA. / 1827–1881 / ARCHITECT’;
(b) ‘Rowley Frames / 140 Church Street / Kensington, W.’.

This portraitback to top

Henry Van der Weyde was a painter and photographer. As well as exhibiting at the Royal Academy from 1875 to 1900 he also ran a very successful photographic studio at 182 Regent Street. He was the first professional photographer to use pure electric light. This innovation involved a gas-driven Siemens dynamo and a four-foot parabolic reflector which produced the brilliance of ‘6,000 candles’; sittings were quick and efficient and not subject to daylight or weather conditions.[1] The Van Der Weyde Electric Studio operated from 1878 until 1902.

Theodore Blake Wirgman made a sketch after the pose represented by NPG P552, in reverse, for a page of portraits of ‘New Associates of the Royal Academy’ in the Graphic in 1881.[2] And when Burges died only a few weeks later, the Van der Weyde photographs were the only available images to illustrate the obituaries. The sobriety of the pose gives little idea – just a hint in the jewelled tiepin – of the extravagance and true eccentricity of Burges’s private life: at his tea parties ‘the meal [was] served in beaten gold, the cream poured out of a single onyx, and the tea strictured in its descent on account of real rubies in the pot’.[3]

See also NPG x127701, a watercolour over a copy print of the Van der Weyde, P552 type.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Pritchard 1882.
2) Graphic, 7 May 1881, p.456; Architectural Review, vol.170, July 1981, p.8; and Crook 1981, p.36, fig.2.
3) Charteris 1931, p.149.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head-and-shoulders, bust facing front, head slightly to left, wearing spectacles.

Provenanceback to top

Given by Mr S.B. Heney, 1994; transferred from NPG Reference to Primary Collection, 1994.

Reproductionsback to top

See note 2 for reproductions.

View all known portraits for William Burges


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