N04611 FIELD-MARSHAL EARL ROBERTS, K.G., V.C., O.M. 1893–5
Canvas, 134×179 (340×454).
Presented by the artist's widow 1932.
Exh: Lent to the Tate Gallery by Dame Katharine Furse from 1906.
Lit: B.F.A.C., Memoir, 1908, p.6, repr. pl.3.
Field-Marshal, 1st Earl Roberts, 1832–1914, distinguished himself in the relief of Lucknow in 1858, at Kandahar in 1880 and in the South African War 1899–1901. He is seen mounted on his bay horse Saracen. Colours are borne behind him by two Indian soldiers on foot. Highland troops are indicated on the right; in the studies a battle is proceeding in the distance on this side. The Tate picture is unfinished and dates from 1893 to 1895. D. S. MacColl, writing in the B.F.A.C. Memoir, p.6, says that ‘Furse took a large studio at 33 Tite Street, Chelsea, in 1892. In this studio he embarked upon his most ambitious monumental portrait, the Lord Roberts. Many studies were made, the composition was set out.... The equestrian figure was completed and some of the figures behind him, - orderlies and Sikhs. The troops to the right were only sketched.’ In 1895 the artist went to South Africa, the canvas was rolled up, and he never touched it again.
For another equestrian portrait of Lord Roberts see T00615. A study of the head of Lord Roberts is reproduced in David James, Lord Roberts, 1954, facing p.336. At the B.F.A.C. Memorial exhibition in 1906 there were four studies for the whole composition (13, 14, 15 and 17), one of the horse Saracen (40) and one of a soldier (41), all lent by the artist's widow.
Dame Katharine Furse, 1940, p.251, points out that the composition was partly borrowed from Velazquez's ‘Surrender of Breda’. Furse was lecturing on Velazquez for the Oxford University Extension Society in 1894.
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I