caption

Edward Burne-Jones, William Graham (1817–1885)

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)

Details

Country House
Mells Manor
Title(s)
William Graham (1817–1885)
Date
1880
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Overall height: 54.5 cm, Overall width: 41 cm
Artist
Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
Catalogue Number
MM75

Description

William Graham (1817–1885) was the son of a wealthy shipping merchant whose company, W. & J. Graham & Co., he later ran before entering Parliament as a Liberal member for Glasgow in 1865. Graham became a close friend and patron of Edward Burne-Jones as early as 1856, and the artist remained a devoted friend of the family after Graham’s death. Burne-Jones harboured a particular fondness for Graham’s fourth daughter, Frances Jane Graham (1854–1940). Seven years after Graham’s death, Burne-Jones wrote to Frances of her father’s ‘genius’ in his ‘perception and instinct for painting.’1 Georgiana Burne-Jones noted that although Graham was a ‘keen man of business . . . simplicity and devotion of soul were as evident in him as in a cloistered monk. His face was like that of a saint and at times like one transfigured.’2 Oliver Garrett has noted that Burne-Jones was a ‘reluctant portraitist’ who found it ‘difficult to express individual personality’ and therefore restricted himself to portraits of family and close friends, such as the Grahams.3 In 1879, Burne-Jones completed a portrait of Frances Graham (private collection) and the following year made a drawing of William Graham as a study for this portrait (private collection). In the present unfinished oil portrait, Burne-Jones puts aside all notions of an ideal form, presenting a somewhat stark and severe image of his friend and patron. The portrait, using a palette of dark blue against a murky bluish-grey background, reflects perhaps Graham’s already failing health, which lead to a prolonged illness before his eventual death in 1885.

by Devon Cox

Bibliography

Frances Horner, Time Remembered, London : WIlliam Heinemann, 1933, p. 6


Stephen Wildman and John Christian, Edward Burne-Jones, Victorian Artist-Dreamer, New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998, pp. 108–9


Oliver Garnett, 'The Letters and Collection of William Graham: Pre-Raphaelite Patron and Pre-Raphael Collector', The Walpole Society, vol. 62, 2000, cat. no. b35, fig. 90, p. 291


Edward Burne-Jones, ed. Alison Smith, exh. cat., London : Tate Publishing, 2018, cat. no 107, pp. 147–8, 150–1, 219


Footnotes

  1. Sir Edward Burne-Jones to Frances Horner, July 1892, Burne-Jones Papers, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, XXVII, 13.

    1
  2. Georgiana Burne-Jones, Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, 2 vols, London: Macmillan, 1904, vol. 1, pp. 295–6.

    2
  3. Oliver Garnett, ‘The Letters and Collection of William Graham: Pre-Raphaelite Patron and Pre-Raphaelite Collector’, The Walpole Society, vol. 62, 2000, p. 169.

    3

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