- Museum number
Portrait of Benjamin Robert Haydon; head and shoulders, facing to the left. 1815
Graphite and red chalk
- Production date
Height: 251 millimetres
Width: 201 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The following text is from S Lloyd and K Sloan, The Intimate Portrait, BM and NGS, 2008, no 188
In 1815, the artist Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) recorded in his diary and journal that he had casts made of the faces of his friends Wilkie and Wordsworth. Later that year he also had casts made of parts of the Elgin marbles when there was some doubt about whether they would remain publicly available for study. The committee on the marbles met early the following year, 1816, to debate whether to purchase them for the nation and when it failed to call Haydon for examination on behalf of Elgin, he wrote a long passionate article published in the London papers. Haydon had spent two years drawing the marbles when they had first arrived in London but he clearly felt if the original was not available for study that casts were essential. He had a collection of life-casts of his friends and his own cast was made in 1820 (NPG). This life cast shows how remarkably faithful is this drawing by Harlow taken only five years earlier.
Haydon often included his drawings of his friends in his paintings. The large painting of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem that he was working on during this period included the heads of Wordsworth and Keats. The drawings and the casts he had taken from his friends' faces were more than just tools for his work - they were also a way of keeping his friends with him, just as his drawings of the Elgin marbles (now in the BM) and the casts of them were some of the most treasured items in his studio.
But not only did Haydon draw his friends - they also drew him. In 1815-16, the year when his reputation as a history painter was still on the rise, his studio was often full and he was feted for his role in the acquisition of the marbles, drawings and oils were made of him by J. P. Davis (V&A), John Keats (NPG) and David Wilkie (Ashmolean and NPG), an old friend with whom this year he visited Paris and worked in Brighton. George Harlow drew him twice and painted his portrait in Van Dyck costume in oils (Birmingham). The present drawing is the first and slightly closer to the three-quarter length oil portrait which shows him facing slightly to the left, rather than in profile as the other drawing by Harlow shows him (Courtauld). The latter is dated 1816 and is also a red and black chalk study of just his head; his hair lies differently on his forehead and his chin juts forward a little too much. Both are very close to Haydon's own pencil self-portrait in profile of 1816 (V&A). This drawing is a tribute to the draughtsmanship of Harlow who, when at the age of fifteen he was taken on as a pupil by Lawrence, was said to draw better than his teacher.
SELECTED LITERATURE: D. Brown, R. Woof and S. Hebron, 'enjamin Robert Haydon', Dove Cottage, Grasmere 1996, no. 66; R.Walker, 'National Portrait Gallery, Regency Portraits', 1985; A. Peach, ' George Henry Harlow', Oxford DNB [article 12347, accessed 19 Jan. 2008]; R. Woof, 'Benjamin Robert Haydon', ibid. [article 12750, accessed 19 Jan. 2008]
Another drawing of Haydon by Harlow is in the collection of the Courtauld Institute Gallery, London (dated 1816) and a related oil, extended to 3/4 length and showing Haydon in Van Dyck costume is in the Birmingham City Art Gallery; see exh cat.'Benjamin Robert Haydon 1786-1846' by D B Brown, R Woof and S Hebron, Wordsworth Trust, Dove Cottage, 1996, no. 66, which was a photointaglio from Keats House, Hampstead.
Harlow was a pupil of Thomas Lawrence and like his master produced portrait drawings in black and red chalk. This exquisite drawing of the history painter Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) is unusually well-preserved. There is another version from the following year in the Courtauld Institute.
The Museum has a large collection of Haydon’s chalk studies of the Parthenon marbles, purchased from the artist’s second son. The Royal Academy is exhibiting Haydon’s anatomical drawings 1 June-21 Oct.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2007, 28 June-11 November, BM, room 90, 'Prints and Drawings: Recent Acquisitions'
2008/9 Oct-Jan, Edinburgh, SNPG, 'The Intimate Portrait', no.188
2009 Mar-May, London, BM, Room 90, 'The Intimate Portrait'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
Purchased with funds provided by Mr and Mrs James Golob
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number