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George Scharf and his Circles: the National Portrait Gallery and the Victorian art world

Past display archive
21 September 2015 - 20 March 2016

Room 28: case display


Sir George Scharf
by Walter William Ouless
NPG 985

Following his death in 1895 the trustees of the National Portrait Gallery paid tribute to Sir George Scharf as a man of ‘unflagging zeal and industry’, indicating the strength of his commitment to his duties over a career that spanned almost 40 years, following his appointment as first Secretary (and later Director) in 1857.  As custodian of the national portraits Scharf’s remit encompassed every aspect of Gallery activity, not least portraiture research.  Yet despite a singular dedication to his cause, Scharf was not working in isolation.  Instead, he benefitted from the expertise and access offered through the interconnected networks of contacts within which he operated.

This display explores key social and professional relationships that were to prove vital to the success of his practice, through portraits of figures from the London art world, the nineteenth-century museum world and the aristocracy.  It also draws upon archival material, including his personal diaries, sketchbooks and correspondence, to articulate a sense of Scharf’s passion for his work and the liveliness of his personality.

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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