Wordsworth Trust purchases portrait of Coleridge

  • 30 October 2006

A beautiful pencil and chalk drawing of Coleridge, considered by the poet to be far more like him than any previous attempt, has been bought by the Wordsworth Trust thanks to a £20,340 Art Fund grant.

The drawing of Coleridge, who wrote some of the greatest poems in the English language including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, was purchased at auction by the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere for £40,681. Additional funding came from the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund.

Royal Academician George Dawe (1781-1829) made the pencil and chalk drawing in 1814, and it is the only firsthand representation of Coleridge in existence for the years 1809 to 1813, a crucial period in the poet’s extraordinary career. These years included the beginnings and end of The Friend, Coleridge’s outstanding personal newspaper; Coleridge’s fierce and irrevocable quarrel with William Wordsworth; and the beginnings of Coleridge’s celebrated lectures on Shakespeare, Milton, literature and philosophy.

Dawe’s beautifully executed portrait of Coleridge was made following the poet’s move to London after two years as Wordsworth’s houseguest in Grasmere, in the heart of the Lake District. It shows Coleridge at the beginning of a new phase in his life where he became known as the ‘sage of Highgate’ for the power and influence of his conversation.

The artist and writer George Dawe was born England and trained at the Royal Academy Schools in London. However, he spent most of his career living in St Petersburg where he painted Russian generals for the Winter Palace. Dawe won much critical praise in Russia, including some complimentary verses from the great Russian Romantic poet Aleksandr Pushkin.

At the Wordsworth Trust the portrait will enter one of the most comprehensive Coleridge collections in the world. From November 2006 to July 2007 it will also feature in an exhibition at the Trust called The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: the Poem and its Illustrators, which will centre on Coleridge’s greatest poem.

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