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Oil painting - Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke (1846-1911)
  • Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke (1846-1911)
    Torrey, George Burroughs, born 1863 - died 1942
  • Enlarge image

Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke (1846-1911)

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    1907 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Torrey, George Burroughs, born 1863 - died 1942 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage


1907 (painted)


Torrey, George Burroughs, born 1863 - died 1942 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'George Burroughs Torrey - 1907'
Signed and dated by the artist


Height: 45 in approx., Width: 32.5 in approx., Height: 1454 mm frame approximate, Width: 1113 mm frame approximate, Depth: 83 mm frame approximate

Object history note

Given by Mr N. Seeley and other friends in America, 1912

George Burroughs Torrey was an American painter who painted portraits, landscapes and marine subjects. He is best known for his portraits; sitters for which have included royalty and presidents of the United States. He was born on March 8th 1863 in New York and educated in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was in Bridgeport that he received his first commission for a portrait of P. T. Barnum, the American showman and entertainer. In 1886 Torrey moved to New York where he set up a studio and achieved success through his portraits that were predominately executed in pastel and crayon. In 1894 he went to Paris for further artistic study. He secured a scholarship to the Ecole des Beaux Arts, but after only two days at that institution decided that he could learn and accomplish more on his own. He spent four years abroad at this time, developing his technique by copying the Old Masters at the Louvre and Versailles. Puvis de Chavannes was an admirer of Torrey’s work and under his direction Torrey developed his understanding of working in oil. Torrey returned to the United States but continued to revisit Paris to paint there every year for twelve successive years. He had studios in Paris, Aix-les-Bains and New York. Later in life Torrey maintained studios at New York, Bridgeport and Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Torrey came to be well known for his portraits and painted numerous celebrities. He painted a portrait of every President of the United States from Grover Cleveland to Herbert Hoover and his portraits of royal personages include Prince Henry of Prussia, King George I of Greece and King Edward VII. In 1891 Torrey married Almirita Howes of Bridgeport. They divorced in 1913. He later married Lillie Hart Gay, daughter of Judge Hart of Honolulu, in 1924. Torrey died on April 14th 1942 in Honolulu following an illness of a fortnight’s duration. Torrey was a member of the Union League Club in New York and many of his paintings were hung there.

Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke was born in Ireland and was educated in England and France. He studied architecture and began working for the Victoria & Albert Museum (then called the South Kensington Museum) in the Works department in 1872. He was appointed keeper of the art collections in 1892 and assistant director in 1893. He became director in 1896, a post he held until his resignation in 1905, when he accepted the post of director of the Metropolitan Museum, New York. He remained director of the Metropolitan Museum until 1910 when he resigned the post due to ill health. He died on 29th March 1911 at his home in Kensal Green, London.

Clarke was painted by Torrey in New York in 1907. Following Clarke’s death in 1911 his friends at the Union League Club wished to present this work to the Victoria & Albert Museum in order ‘to honour and perpetuate his [Clarke’s] memory.’1 It was hung on the east wall of the Board Room (Committee Room). According to Mr N. Seeley of the Union League Club in his letter dated 24th April 1911 this portrait ‘was pronounced by Sir Purdon as being the most satisfactory likeness he ever had.’2 Indeed, Torrey was renowned, particularly in America, for his ability to capture a likeness. When his portrait of Theodore Roosevelt was reproduced it bore an endorsement from the sitter; the president’s handwriting laid over the image, bearing the words ‘the only successful portrait of me ever painted.’3

1. Letter from Mr N. Seeley of the Union League Club (24th April 1911) MA/1/51084
2. Ibid.
3. ‘George B. Torrey, Portrait Painter’, New York Times, (April 15, 1942), p,21

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke (1846-1911)', George Burroughs Torrey, 1907


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting


Paintings; Portraits


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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