The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Characters and Caricatures: Photographs by Herbert Watkins

Past display archive
3 June - 17 November 2013

Room 24: case display


NPG P301(37) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Euphemia ('Effie') Chalmers (née Gray), Lady Millais
by (George) Herbert Watkins
late 1850s
NPG P301(37)

Born in Worcester on 12 July 1828, Victorian photographer (George) Herbert Watkins opened his first studio at no. 179 Regent Street in the mid 1850s, later moving to no. 215 by 1858. His portraits were first shown at the 1856 Exhibition of the Photographic Society in London. Additional portraits shown in the 1857 Exhibition included his now famous study of Charles Dickens writing at his desk.

In 1857 Watkins began contributing to Herbert Fry’s serial, a National Gallery of Photographic Portraits. Sixteen prints were issued individually by subscription at 4 shillings each, before the project ended in 1858. (These photographs and texts can be seen in Album 39 of the Gallery’s Photographs Collection.) During the 1850s to 1870s Watkins issued many of his portraits as carte-de-visites, as well as pioneering mixed media photo-caricatures in this medium.

This display is the first to be held at the National Portrait Gallery to celebrate the life and work of Herbert Watkins, and draws together a selection of important albumen prints from the rarely-exhibited Herbert Watkins album, acquired by the Gallery in 1985. The album contains over 140 prints which can be explored online here, and also contains photographs by his brothers John and Charles Watkins. Further research and conservation work is currently taking place on this important album.

Photographs Collection: Display

© National Portrait Gallery, London


Our channel

View a wide collection of video content on our YouTube channel from past projects to our latest films.

Sit back and watch

Artist and sitter interviews

Get insights into creating portraiture from BP Portrait Award 2020 artists and their sitters.

Explore behind the scenes

Sleeping Awake

Watch our film created to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gallery before we closed for our major transformation project.

Hear our story