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Portrait of Thomas Carlyle

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Portrait of Thomas Carlyle

Arrangement in Grey and Black No 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).

This portrait of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), the eminent Scottish historian and essayist, was painted in 1872. It had been offered to the National Portrait Gallery in London but the keeper refused to purchase it, saying he did not consider "such a work a painting at all." A public subscription was started in Edinburgh after the portrait was exhibited there in 1884, but Whistler raised his price from 500 guineas to 1,000 guineas (£1,050) when he heard that some of the subscribers did not actually like the painting.

In January 1891 the Glasgow Art Club wrote to Glasgow Corporation asking that the latter purchase the painting for the city's art collection. Sixty-four artists were among those who signed the letter, and in February the Corporation agreed to buy the portrait in spite of some opposition (a local paper called it "wasteful extravagance"). A deputation was sent to London to negotiate with Whistler, and the painting was secured for the Corporation's collections even though the artist refused to lower his price.

Reference: 671

Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Museums

art collections, artists, essayists, Glasgow Art Club, Glasgow Corporation, historians, National Portrait Gallery, oil paintings, portraits, writers

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