History

A new version of Sopwith’s Buckland portrait?

Ted Nield writes: While visiting the private museum of Dorset fossil collector, preparator and author Wolfgang Grulke recently for a future article in Geoscientist, I saw a familiar image in a rather unfamiliar form.

Buckland by Thomas Sopwith

Buckland by Thomas Sopwith

Most of us have at one time or another seen Thomas Sopwith’s famous pen and ink drawing of William Buckland (1784-1856) in his remarkable field gear.  In addition to the cape and top hat, we also see the trademark goggly eyes that evidently impressed every portraitist who had met the man personally.  But what are we to make of this watercolour, clearly based on the Sopwith original?

The broad features of the Professor’s garb have been copied freehand; but the face is a poor likeness – as though copied by an inexpert draughtsman with no particular idea of the subject’s true appearance.  Also, the famous ‘blue bag’ is not coloured blue but a standard beige – which also suggests that the painter was not personally familiar with his – or her – subject.

And who is ‘APF’ of the signature?  Any ideas/opinions most welcome!

Buckalnd in Field Gear by 'AFP'

Dr Buckland, Geologist by ‘APF’

5 thoughts on “A new version of Sopwith’s Buckland portrait?

  1. thanks for this fascinating post. Just one small note–the familiar version of this image isn’t pen-and-ink, but printed lithography. As with many of these caricatures, that enabled shared distribution among a number of interested parties. If it was pen-and-ink, there would be only one original.
    Alas, I don’t know who A.P.F.!

    • Cheers Jim! Read a great review of your new book in Literary Review. Congratulations. please feel free to send Geoscientist a review copy! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Whewell’s Gazette: Vol. 10 | Whewell's Ghost

  3. fascinating to see the waterclour, I have a copy of the original lthograph along with a letter from Thomas Sopwith, in which he identifies Buckland as the subject, commenting that Buckland’s wife thought it a very good likness,he then goes on to describe various elements in the composition and the fact that, although signed as,”scratched by T Sopwith”, he employed an artist to do the face.I hope this is of interest to you,I am not a geologist and, to be honest, had never heard of Dr Buckland but I gather that there was some doubt as to whether it really was him in the print, I have put both of these interesting articles up for auction on Ebay,
    regards
    Rob Gray

    • Dear Rob – I only just saw your reply – more than two years after you wrote it. I would have been very interested to make you an offer for the lithograph and letter. Sorry I missed it!

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