Credit: ©The Royal Society
    Image number: RS.9718
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    Portrait of George Stokes

    George Gabriel Stokes (1819 - 1903, British) , Physicist
    Hubert von Herkomer (1849 - 1914, British) , Painter
    Object type
    Archive reference number
    height (painting): 1224mm
    width (painting): 989mm
    Three-quarter length portrait of Sir George Gabriel Stokes, seated, his right hand resting on the armrest to his chair. Stokes is turned slightly to the left as viewed and is dressed in a black suit and tie and a white shirt with a high collar. Over this, a plain black teaching gown. A watch chain is visible at the waistcoat. Stokes has white hair and prominent side-whiskers.

    George Stokes was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1851, he served as its President from 1885 to 1890.
    HH 91
    Object history
    Presented by a committee of subscribers, 1891.

    Brief minutes of a Stokes portrait committee are preserved in the Society’s archives: “Sir Henry Roscoe reported that Mr.Herkomer was willing to paint a portrait of Sir Gabriel Stokes half length for 500 Guineas; ¾ length 600 guineas...It was agreed to commission Mr.Herkomer...and to request Mr.Herkomer to arrange with Sir Gabriel Stokes the times for sittings.” [Royal Society Committee Minutes Book, CMB/19/1, minutes of the Stokes Portrait Committee, January-February 1891]. A circular letter soliciting contributions and listing the subscribers is also held [Circular letter, The Royal Society, n.d. [c.1890-1891], commencing “The retirement of Sir George Gabriel Stokes for the office of President...”, Royal Society Provenance File] as is a letter from the artist on completion: “As the portrait of Sir Gabriel Stokes is now finished I hope I shall cause no inconvenience by carrying out my usual custom of of asking for payment when work is done...” [Letter, Herbert Herkomer, 2 December 1891, to John Evans, Royal; Society Miscellaneous Correspondence, MC/15/243].

    According to his daughter, Stokes “...was apt to look bored when being painted, and to draw down the corners of his mouth. Thus the portrait by Herkomer at the Royal Society is not satisfactory to those who knew him best.” [“Notes and recollections”, by Mrs.Laurence Humphrey, in The memoir and scientific correspondence of the late George Gabriel Stokes, ed.Joseph Larmor (CUP, Cambridge, 1907) pp.12-13].

    Council gives permission for the portrait to be exhibited at the summer exhibtion of the New Gallery, 1892. Letter from Herbert Rix to D J Williams, Dyreham, Bushey, Herts, Apr 1892. NLB/6/290
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