Charles Dickens thumbnail 1
Charles Dickens thumbnail 2
+1
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 122c

Charles Dickens

Oil Painting
1859 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
In Victorian times portraits of the rich and famous included many personalities who were artists, politicians, literary figures and scientists. This reflected a much wider interest in such individuals than was evident in the18th century. Before 1800, a typical portrait would be of a wealthy landowner, merchant or a nobleman and their families. Increasingly, after that date, portraits of all kinds of people were commissioned. The invention of photography finally ensured that even people of modest means could have their portraits made.

People
Frith painted this portrait at the height of the novelist's fame in 1859. Dickens is seated in his study in his house in Bloomsbury, and some of the first chapter of ' A Tale of Two Cities' (published 1859) is shown on the desk in front of him. The picture delighted John Forster, Dickens's friend and biographer, who had commissioned the work, but Dickens himself was less enthusiastic about the way his expression had been rendered. Forster had arranged for a photograph of Dickens to be taken before the painting was started, but it was not a success, and the artist Frith did not use it to help him paint the portrait.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting, 'Charles Dickens', William Powell Frith, 1859
Physical Description
Dickens, wearing a black overcoat, sits writing 'A Tale of Two Cities'. 'David Copperfield' and another bound volume lie nearby. Behind him a calendar and an address from the City of Birmingham are displayed.
Dimensions
  • Framed height: 98cm
  • Width: 84cm
  • Depth: 10.5cm
Dimensions checked: Measured; 20/01/1999 by sf
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
'W P Frith fecit 1859' (Signed and dated by the artist, lower left)
Gallery Label
British Galleries: The writer is shown with a copy of 'David Copperfield' and the manuscript of 'A Tale of Two Cities'. Portraits of Dickens were widely circulated as photographs and engravings. He willingly participated in efforts to promote his own 'personality cult' through reading tours and advertisements on hoardings.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Bequeathed by John Forster
Object history
Bequeathed by John Forster, 1876.

Commissioned by John Forster Painted in London by William Powell Frith RA (born in Aldfield, North Yorkshire, 1819, died in London, 1909)
Production
Dated 1859
Subjects depicted
Summary
Object Type
In Victorian times portraits of the rich and famous included many personalities who were artists, politicians, literary figures and scientists. This reflected a much wider interest in such individuals than was evident in the18th century. Before 1800, a typical portrait would be of a wealthy landowner, merchant or a nobleman and their families. Increasingly, after that date, portraits of all kinds of people were commissioned. The invention of photography finally ensured that even people of modest means could have their portraits made.

People
Frith painted this portrait at the height of the novelist's fame in 1859. Dickens is seated in his study in his house in Bloomsbury, and some of the first chapter of ' A Tale of Two Cities' (published 1859) is shown on the desk in front of him. The picture delighted John Forster, Dickens's friend and biographer, who had commissioned the work, but Dickens himself was less enthusiastic about the way his expression had been rendered. Forster had arranged for a photograph of Dickens to be taken before the painting was started, but it was not a success, and the artist Frith did not use it to help him paint the portrait.
Bibliographic References
  • Bills, Mark and Vivien Knight (Eds.), William Powell Frith: Painting the Victorian Age. Yale University Press, 2006
  • Parkinson, R., Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, London: HMSO, 1990, pp. 94-96
  • 100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum. London: V&A, 1985, p.158
  • p. 115Richard Green and Jane Sellars, eds. William Powell Frith. The people’s painter. Bloomsbury, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2019.
Collection
Accession Number
F.7

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdDecember 15, 1999
Record URL