John Forster, LLD (1812-1876)

Oil Painting
1887 (painted)
Not currently on display at the V&A

Place Of Origin

Oil on canvas depicting the donor of the Forster Bequest, John Forster.

object details
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting, painted from a photograph, depicting John Forster (1812-1876) by Charles Edward Perugini. Great Britain, 1887.
Physical Description
Oil on canvas depicting the donor of the Forster Bequest, John Forster.
  • Estimate height: 45.25in
  • Estimate width: 29.25in
Credit line
Bequeathed by Mrs John Forster
Object history
Bequeathed by Mrs John Forster

Historical significance: The genre painter Charles Edward Perugini (1839-1918) was born in Naples, and came to London in 1863. His wife Kate, also an artist, was the daughter of Charles Dickens.

The subject of the portrait, John Forster (1812-76) was an historian, biographer, and collector of books, manuscripts, paintings, drawings and engravings. He bequeathed his collections to the V&A; they include 48 oil paintings (both continental old masters and modem British works), and almost all of the manuscripts of Charles Dickens's novels. Forster first studied law, qualifying as a barrister in 1843, but from 1832 he was contributing articles and reviews to various publications. He was editor of the Foreign Quarterly Review (1842-3), the Daily News (1846) and the Examiner (1847-55). His biographies include the Lives of the Statesmen of the Commonwealth (5 vols, 1836-9), Oliver Goldsmith (1848), WaIter Savage Landor (2 vols, 1860) and - most famously - the Life of Charles Dickens (3 vols, 1872-4).

Other portraits of Forster in the V&A collections include an oil painting by Daniel Maclise of about 1830 (P.35-1935) and another by E M Ward of around 1850 (P.74-1935), two pen and ink sketches by Maclise of 1840, a watercolour by Clarkson Stanfield of about 1842, and a photograph carte de visite. Another portrait of Forster by Maclise, in the role of Kitely in Ben Johnson's play Every Man in his Humour, exhibited at the RA in 1848, is also in the V&A (F.20).

This portrait by Perugini was reproduced as the frontispiece to Richard Renton's book John Forster and his Friendships, 1912.
Painted from a photograph, 1887
Subjects depicted
Accession Number

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record createdFebruary 13, 2007
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