Portraits of Charles Darwin

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There are many known portraits of Charles Darwin. Darwin came from a wealthy family and became a well-known naturalist and author, and portraits were made of him in childhood, adulthood and old age. Darwin's life (1809–1882) spanned the development of photography, and early portraits of Darwin are drawn or painted, while many later portraits are monochrome photographs. After the publication and dissemination of the controversial On the Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin was also the subject of numerous caricatures.

Darwin's visage, particularly his iconic beard, continues to be culturally significant and widely recognisable into the 21st century. According to historian Janet Browne, Darwin's capacity to commission photographs of himself—and their widespread reproduction as carte de visite and cabinet card photographs—helped to cement the lasting connection between Darwin and the theory of evolution in popular thought (largely to the exclusion of the many others who also contributed to the development of evolutionary theory), especially as these portraits were reinterpreted in caricature.[1] At that time few could afford to commission portrait photographs, and this gave Darwin an advantage in gaining public recognition.[2]

Especially in his last decades as his illness progressed, Darwin expressed frustration about sitting for photographs. He turned down an opportunity in 1869 to sit for a portrait with Alfred Russel Wallace, explaining that sitting for photographs "is what I hate doing & wastes a whole day owing to my weak health; and to sit with another person would cause still more trouble & delay." Nevertheless, there are at least 53 known photographs of Darwin, according to Gene Kritsky, a scholar of Darwin photos.[3]

Chronological list of portraits[edit]

Year Creator Image Notes
1816 Ellen Sharples Charles and Catherine Darwin, 1816, by Sharples.jpg Chalk drawing of Charles (age six) and his sister Catherine
late 1830s George Richmond Charles Darwin by G. Richmond.jpg Water-color portrait from after Darwin's return from the voyage of the Beagle
1842 Charles-Darwin-and-William-Darwin,-1842.png Daguerrotype of Darwin (age 33) with his son William, reproduced in The Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton by Karl Pearson
1849 Thomas Herbert Maguire Charles Darwin portrait by T. H. Maguire, 1849.jpg
1853 Samuel Laurence Charles Darwin drawing by Samuel Laurence, 1853, alternative.jpg Pastel chalk drawing of Darwin by Samuel Laurence
probably 1854 Henry Maull and [John] Fox Charles Darwin aged 51.jpg A portrait by Maull & Fox, probably taken when Darwin was 45, which was used as the frontispiece of Francis Darwin's The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887), with the caption "From a Photograph (1854?) by Messrs. Maull. And Fox. Engraved for Harper's Magazine, October 1884."[4] In an 1899 paper, Francis Darwin wrote that "The date of the photograph is probably 1854; it is, however, impossible to be certain on this point, the books of Messrs. Maull and Fox having been destroyed by fire. The reproduction is by Mr. Dew-Smith, who has been at some disadvantage, having only an old and faded print to work from."[5] The photograph was reproduced in The Life, Letters, and Labours of Francis Galton (1914-24-30) by Karl Pearson who wrote that it showed Darwin at the age of 51, which would date it to 1859 or 1860.[citation needed]
c. 1855 Maull & Polyblank (photography partnership of Henry Maull and George Henry Polyblank Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank, 1855-1.jpg Portrait for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club about which Darwin wrote in a 27 May 1855 letter: "if I really have as bad an expression, as my photograph gives me, how I can have one single friend is surprising."[6]
c. 1866 Ernest Edwards (1837–1903) Charles Darwin photograph by Ernest Edwards, circa 1866.jpg
c. 1866 Ernest Edwards (1837–1903) Charles Darwin photograph, after Ernest Edwards, circa 1866.jpg
1867 Ernest Edwards (1837–1903) Carte de visite photography of Charles Darwin by Ernest Edwards, 1867.jpg
1867 Ernest Edwards (1837–1903) Charles Darwin photograph by Ernest Edwards, 1867.jpg
1867 André Gill Ch Darwin-Emile Littré by André Gill.jpg
1868 Julia Margaret Cameron Charles Darwin by Julia Margaret Cameron 2.jpg
1868 Julia Margaret Cameron Charles Darwin photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1968.jpg
1869 Attributed to Julia Margaret Cameron, although it has been suggested that this is a reversed image of a photograph taken by Leonard Darwin in the 1870s. Charles Darwin 01.jpg
1869 Julia Margaret Cameron Charles Darwin photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1969.jpg
1869 Laura Russell (1816–1885) Portrait of Charles Robert Darwin, by Laura Russell, 1869.jpg oil on canvas
c. 1871 Oscar Gustave Rejlander Charles Darwin photograph by Oscar Rejlander, circa 1871.jpg
1871 The Hornet artist Editorial cartoon depicting Charles Darwin as an ape (1871).jpg "A Venerable Orang-outang", a caricature from 22 March 1871 issue of The Hornet magazine
1871 "Coïdé", a.k.a. James Jacques Joseph Tissot VanityFair-Darwin2.jpg "Natural Selection", a Vanity Fair caricature from 30 September 1871 issue
1874 Elliott & Fry Charles Darwin photograph by Elliott and Fry, 1874.jpg
1874 Elliott & Fry Charles Darwin by Elliott & Fry, 1874.png
unknown unknown [possibly Elliott & Fry]; published by John G. Murdoch Darwin - John G Murdoch Portrait restored.jpg A Woodburytype carte de visite
unknown Elliott & Fry Charlesdarwin Elliott & Fry.jpg
unknown unknown Darwin-Charles-LOC.jpg
c. 1874 Leonard Darwin Numerous photographs were taken by Darwin's son Leonard, who was an avid amateur photographer.[7]
1875 Walter William Ouless (1848–1933) Charles Darwin painting by Walter William Ouless, 1875.jpg A painting by W. W. Ouless that hangs in Darwin College at Cambridge University
c. 1875 Elliott & Fry Charles Darwin photograph by Elliott and Fry, circa 1875.jpg
late 1870s Elliott & Fry Charles Darwin photograph by Elliott and Fry, late 1870s.jpg
1877 Lock & Whitfield Charles Darwin 1877.png
1878 Marion Collier (née Huxley) (1859–1887) Charles Darwin sketch by Marion Collier, 1878.jpg Pencil sketch
unknown unknown Charles Darwin carte de visite.jpg
1879 Elliott & Fry Darwin restored2.jpg
1881 Elliott & Fry Charles Darwin by Elliott and Fry.jpg
1881 Elliott & Fry Darwin 1881.jpg
29 November 1881 Elliott & Fry Charles Darwin photograph by Elliott and Fry, 29 November, 1881.jpg
1881 Punch artist Man is But a Worm.jpg "Man is But a Worm", including a caricature of Darwin, from the 1882 Punch almanac. It was published soon after Darwin's last book The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms.
1881 (copied in 1883) John Collier Charles Robert Darwin by John Collier.jpg A copy made by John Collier in 1883 of his 1881 portrait of Charles Darwin. According to Darwin's son Erasmus, "The picture is a replica of the one in the rooms in the Linnaean Society and was made by Collier after the original. I took some trouble about it and as a likeness it is an improvement on the original."[8]
1881 Herbert Rose Barraud (1845–1896) Charles Darwin photograph by Herbert Rose Barraud, 1881.jpg Photograph by Herbert Rose Barraud, thought by Darwin photograph scholar Gene Kritsky to be the last photograph taken of Darwin before his death in 1882. The original photograph is held by the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.[3]
Between 1880 and 1910 Harry Furniss Charles Darwin caricature by Harry Furniss.jpg A pen and ink caricature by illustrator Harry Furniss


  1. ^ Janet Browne,'Looking at Darwin: Portraits and the Making of an Icon’ Isis 100 (2009): 542–570
  2. ^ April Wright (17 February 2009). "Darwin's popularity captured in new light". Manitou Messenger. Archived from the original on 17 February 2009.
  3. ^ a b Richard Milner, "Charles Darwin: The Last Portrait", Scientific American, November 1995, pp. 78–79.
  4. ^ Frontispiece from Darwin, Francis (1887), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin
  5. ^ Darwin F. 1899. "The botanical work of Darwin". Annals of Botany 13: ix – xix.
  6. ^ John van Wyhe, Photograph of Charles Darwin by Maull and Polyblank for the Literary and Scientific Portrait Club (1855), December 2006. Accessed 19 January 2009.
  7. ^ Prodger, Phillip (2009). Darwin's Camera: Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution. Oxford University Press/Google eBook. p. 17. ISBN 0199882169. Retrieved September 2013. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  8. ^ Portrait NPG 1024: Robert Charles Darwin, National Portrait Gallery, London. Accessed 19 January 2009.

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