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Darwin Correspondence Project

1.16 Alphonse Legros, drypoint

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Alphonse Legros was highly esteemed by contemporaries for his engraved portraits of intellectuals and leading figures in the arts. These were collectors’ pieces which were sporadically published in sets from the 1860s onwards. As Professor at the Slade School of Art in London, Legros also taught techniques of etching and drypoint to his students. This image of Darwin exists in only one state, and only two impressions seem to have been taken from the plate. It is undated, but is almost certainly later than 1877, when the first catalogue raisonné of Legros’s prints by Auguste Poulet-Malassis and A.W. Thibaudeau makes no mention of it. The likeliest source for the portrayal – beyond Legros’s occasional sightings of Darwin during his life – is the late group of photographs of him taken by Elliott and Fry, c.1880–1. The engraved image has many similarities to Legros’s drawing of Darwin in the Fitzwilliam Museum, which may have been done at the same period. Both contrast strongly with the deliberate roughness and virile energy of Legros’s characterisation of Darwin in his contemporary medallion design. All the known impressions of the drypoint engraving remained in the artist’s possession, and they were acquired after his death by Frank E. Bliss. In 1923 Bliss’s collection passed to Albert H. Wiggin, who in 1941 donated all his important prints and drawings to Boston Public Library. 

  • physical location Boston Public Library, Arts Department 

  • accession or collection number 07_09_001248 

  • copyright holder Boston Public Library 

  • originator of image Alphonse Legros; signed at bottom right 

  • date of creation unknown; probably c.1881 

  • computer-readable date probably c.1881-01-01 to 1881-12-31 

  • medium and material drypoint intaglio engraving 

  • references and bibliography A Catalogue of the Etchings, Drypoints and Lithographs by Professor Alphonse Legros (1837–1911). In the Collection of Frank E. Bliss, compiled by Bliss with a preface by Campbell Dodgson (London: printed for private circulation, 1923), p. 108, no. 430. Boston Public Library online catalogue of its collection of prints by Alphonse Legros, at, accessed October 2019. Article on Alphonse Legros by Timothy Wilcox in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. J. van Wyhe, ’Iconography’, p. 142, dating the engraving to c.1881. 


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