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Sir George Scharf

Sir George Scharf, by Sir George Scharf, 1887 -NPG 4053(1) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir George Scharf

by Sir George Scharf
Pencil on wove paper, 1887
14 in. x 10 in. (357 mm x 254 mm) overall
NPG 4053(1)

Inscriptionback to top

Signed, dated and inscr. in pencil top left-hand corner: ‘GS. Sunday 26th June 1887 / at 12 and 7 o’clock’;
top right-hand corner: ‘1st July, 8 P.M. 3rd July 7.P.M / 4th July 7 to 8 P.M. Sunday / 5th July 6.30 to 7.40. p.m. / July 12. 7.15 to 7 30’;
and lower right-hand corner: ‘6.50 P.M. / 7. oclock’.

This portraitback to top

In June 1887 Scharf was 66 years old and living at 8 Ashley Place, Westminster. Though the National Portrait Gallery collection had moved to Bethnal Green the gallery offices remained nearby at 20 Great George Street. The weather was sultry and he complained much of the heat in his diary. He also recorded symptoms of old age and bad health – difficulty in breathing, growing deafness, loss of smell, false teeth. But in the self-portraits he made in June and July, NPG 4053(1–3), there is no sense of dispiritedness.

NPG 4053(1) presents a strong head drawn in Scharf’s usual vigorous hand. He noted times and dates (26 June to 12 July) on the drawing, and some tie in with the diary entries. So on Sunday, 26 June 1887: ‘At 12 o’clock began my sketch of myself in double looking glass when Harold Dillon came in. Began a third drawing of myself direct in the glass & worked at it in the afternoon and evening till 7 o’clock. […] Troublesome coughing before supper worse than usual. Perhaps not improved by standing in my window before looking glass.’ The next mention is on Friday, 1 July: ‘Sketched myself in the glass.’ The following Monday (4 July): ‘Worked at pencil drawing of myself in the glass in my bedroom till near 8 o’clock. Splendid evening. Full moon. I enjoyed “Lemon Squash” & claret & water instead of sherry’. The last diary reference was on 5 July: ‘Finished my sketch of self & set it with gum water at 8 oclk.’ It is a finished drawing, focusing closely on the eyes and the flesh around them. [1]

NPG 4053(1) belongs to the collection ‘Drawings by Sir George Scharf, circa 1867–87’, NPG4053(1–19), which was part of the Scharf Bequest to the NPG in 1895; the material was accessioned and moved to the Primary Collection in May 1958. This collection of drawings, which contains some non-portrait material, was first catalogued in 2008.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Sir George Scharf Papers (Personal diary 1887, NPG7/3/1/44, NPG Archive).

Physical descriptionback to top

Head to left, eyes to the viewer, moustache and thick, curly beard.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, late 20th century (no date).

Provenanceback to top

Scharf Bequest, 1895.

View all known portraits for Sir George Scharf


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