John Fletcher Appeal
by Unknown artist
The National Portrait Gallery has the opportunity to purchase the only known portrait from the life of John Fletcher (1579 - 1625), one of the most successful and prolific playwrights of the Jacobean period. Fletcher wrote three plays jointly with Shakespeare: Cardenio (now lost), The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen. He also collaborated extensively with Francis Beaumont and others, and wrote on his own.
The painting would be a wonderful addition to the National Portrait Gallery's collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean writers. Although the artist is unidentified, it is a work of good quality, larger and more ostentatious in its presentation than portraits of Ben Jonson and Shakespeare, who came from humbler backgrounds. Fletcher, along with his contemporaries, contributed to a body of literature that was one of Britain's greatest contributions to world culture: out of the literary milieu of this period came the works of Shakespeare and the King James translation of the Bible. The group of literary portraits from this era, including John Donne, Shakespeare and Jonson, is one of the most compelling in the Gallery's collections. If the portrait of Fletcher can be acquired, it will be hung as part of a special display celebrating the extraordinary achievement of writers of the period.
The portrait featured in the Gallery's 2006 exhibition, Searching for Shakespeare. It shows Fletcher as a prosperous and well-dressed man with paper and pens, the tools of his trade. The portrait is on offer for £218,000, a substantially reduced price following tax remission. Some funding has already been identified and an application has been made for grant support. However, to make this purchase possible, the Gallery must raise £50,000 through appeal by the deadline of 20 January 2008.