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William Wilberforce

by George Richmond
watercolour, 1833
17 1/4 in. x 13 in. (438 mm x 330 mm)
Purchased, 1974
NPG 4997

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Patricia Messenger

14 July 2017, 16:50

I believe that this water color was painted, just as you say, starting in 1832 and completed in 1833. And George Richmond probably did sit and listen while Rev. Forster tried to goad Mr. Wilberforce into an argument about slavery. That is a wonderful story.

I apologize in advance if Mr. Wilberforce held a title, which I omit due to my own ignorance of titles. I'm American.

But I believe that the watercolor was also based on a photograph of William Wilberforce, http://www.brh.org.uk/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/wilberforce.jpg. This photograph is beautifully done and remarkably preserved. And as it was clearly taken during Mr. Wilberforce' lifetime, (he died in 1833) it changes the history of photography. The sources I've seen say the first photograph of a person was taken in 1838. I believe you had a photographic genius in Great Britain, who took this portrait, and probably many others as well. Please take a moment to appreciate the wonderful detail of the Wilberforce photographic portrait, and appreciate it, as well as the remarkable preservation of it. It is in better condition than many photos that were taken decades later. And I love the photograph more than I love the watercolor, although I love both. I believe you will see that the watercolor was indeed based upon the photograph.

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