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George Scharf

Sir George Scharf, 1885, oil by Walter William Ouless
Born 1820
Died 1895
Nationality British
Occupation illustrator, art critic, lecturer, President of the National Portrait Gallery.

Sir George Scharf KCB (December 16, 1820 – April 19, 1895), British art critic, illustrator, and director of the National Portrait Gallery, was born in London, the son of George Johann Scharf, a Bavarian miniature painter, and older brother to Henry Scharf, actor and illustrator.



Early years

George Scharf was born at 3 St Martin's Lane London on 16 Dec 1820. He was educated at University College school, and after studying under his father and obtaining medals from the Society Arts, entered the schools of the Royal Academy in 1838.[1]


In 1840 Sir Charles Fellows engaged Scharf to join him on his second journey to Asia Minor and on the way spent some time in Italy. Three years later he again visited Asia Minor in the capacity of draughtsman. He made drawings of views and antiquities from Lycia, Caria, and Lydia, which are now in British Museum. A selection of these illustrations with text by Sir Charles Fellows was published in 1847.


After his return to England, Scharf exhibited his paintings of the tombs in Myrus and Xanthus at the Royal Academy in 1845 and 1846.[2] He also illustrated books relating to art and antiquity, of which the best known are Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome (1847); Milman's Horace, (1849); Kugler's Handbook of Italian Painting (1851); and Dr Smith's classical dictionaries.

He also engaged largely in lecturing and teaching, and took part in the formation of the Greek, Roman and Pompeian courts at the Crystal Palace. He acted as art secretary to the great Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, and in that year was appointed secretary and director to the newly founded National Portrait Gallery. The remainder of his life was given to the care of that institution.

Scharf acquired an unrivalled knowledge of all matters relating to historic portraiture, and was the author of many learned essays on the subject. In 1885, in recognition of his services to the Portrait Gallery, he was made CB, and on his resignation, early in 1895, KCB and a trustee of the Gallery. He died in London in April, 1895 after a long illness. [3]

Paintings and Illustrations

Links to Publications

Images of George Scharf


  1. ^ The Dictionary of National Biography, 1901, p. 899
  2. ^ The Royal Academy of Arts; a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769 to 1904 (1905), p 42.
  3. ^ New York Times Obituary


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