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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

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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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