Henry Austin Bruce, 1st Baron Aberdare (1815-1895) Home Secretary 1869-1873
About the work
Interpretation about this artwork is under review
Home Secretary Henry Austin Bruce is seated at his desk. He wears a black jacket, brown fur waistcoat and grey trousers. His style of beard, confined to sideburns and the area beneath his chin, was fashionable at the time.This is a copy of an original portrait by the artist Henry Tanworth Wells, which was presented to Henry Bruce ‘by his friends and the electors of Merthyr Tydvil’, the constituency Bruce represented as MP from 1854 to 1868. When the idea for a presentation portrait was suggested to Bruce, his initial thought was that it should be painted by his friend George Frederic Watts. Correspondence at Glamorgan Archives indicates that despite Bruce’s plea that ‘it will always be a pleasure to me and mine to know that my portrait was the work of a valued friend’, Watts refused the commission, modestly describing himself as ‘not a good portrait painter’. Initially Watts recommended his neighbour in Kensington, the painter Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838–1904). However, Wells and Watts were also friends and Wells may have been Watts’ subsequent suggestion.
About the artist
Henry Tanworth Wells was a pupil of the painter of portraits and historical subjects James Matthews Leigh. Wells initially specialised in miniature portraits but as the development of photography reduced demand, he began painting on a larger scale. In 1870 he became a member of the Royal Academy and soon took a leading role in Academy administration. Wells married the painter and writer Joanna Boyce. Shortly after the birth of their third child Joanna died. Wells’ son, Sidney, also died suddenly at the age of just ten. A successful painter and prosperous artist, Wells’ best known work was ‘Princess Victoria Receiving the News of Her Succession’ (1837) now in the Royal Collection.
- Henry Austin Bruce, 1st Baron Aberdare (1815-1895) Home Secretary 1869-1873
- Oil on canvas
- height: 127.50 cm, width: 102.50 cm
- Purchased 1911
- Purchased 1911
- GAC number