Catalogue entry

N04087 PORTRAIT OF A MAN OF LETTERS: W.E. HENLEY 1901

Inscr. ‘Nicholson 1901’ b.l.
Canvas, 14 3/4×11 3/4 (37·5×30).
Bequeathed by Mrs W.E. Henley 1925.
Exh: International Society, October–December 1901 (79, repr.), as ‘Portrait of a Man of Letters’; Art and Industrial Exhibition, Wolverhampton, 1902 (144), as ‘Man of Letters W. E. Henley, Esq.’; National Gallery, January 1942 (82).
Lit: Steen, 1943, p.63; Browse, 1956, p.38.
Repr: Art Journal, 1906, p.34; S. K[ennedy] N[orth], William Nicholson, 1923, pl.6; Nichols, 1948, pl.6.

William Ernest Henley, 1849–1903, the poet, critic and, in collaboration with Robert Louis Stevenson, dramatist. Portrayed in Stevenson's essay Talk and Talkers as ‘Burly’ and also reflected in the character of ‘Long John Silver’. Among other activities edited The Magazine of Art, 1882–6, championing Rodin and Whistler, and The New Review, 1894–8; commissioned a series of portraits for the latter from William Nicholson and wrote verses for the artist's series of London types published in 1898.

The date has hitherto been read as ‘1900’. A woodcut version is repr. Steen, 1943, facing p.19 (in colour). Nicholson also painted a picture of Henley's distinctive hat (see Browse, op. cit., p.122).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II