Portrait of Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds Comes Home to Lichfield

Published on: Tue, 17/09/2019 - 15:13

Image Credit: Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c.1756 © National Portrait Gallery, London

A portrait of the famous son of Lichfield, Samuel Johnson painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds is being displayed in Lichfield Cathedral as part of a major National Portrait Gallery project.

The COMING HOME project sees 50 portraits of iconic individuals from the national Collection traveling to the towns and cities most closely associated with their subjects.

Johnson’s portrait will be taking pride of place in Lichfield Cathedral’s Chapter House alongside a selection of notable books from the Cathedral library and a painting of Samuel Johnson visiting the Cathedral on loan from the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum.

Johnson spent the majority of his life in London, but he regularly visited his birthplace in his later years. His high regard for his home is indicated by the inclusion of Lichfield in his Dictionary of the English Language (1755) with the motto: Salve Magna Parens (Hail Great Mother). In 1771, Johnson wrote to Sir Joshua Reynolds about another painting, a copy of which had been painted for his step-daughter Lucy Porter:

“When I came to Lichfield, I found that my portrait had been much visited, and much admired. Every man has a lurking wish to appear considerable in his native place, and I was pleased with the dignity conferred by such a testimony of your regard”

Artist in Residence at Lichfield Cathedral, Peter Walker says: “Being able to welcome home a portrait of this famous son of Lichfield is a great privilege. At the end of this year we will be working on an art installation featuring self-portraits of thousands of people from around the community. Johnson’s portrait on display in the Cathedral could not be coming home at a more poignant time.”

“A copy of A Dictionary of the English Language from 1755 by Samuel Johnson will be on display during the exhibition, opened at the entry for ‘Portrait.”

The exhibition at Lichfield Cathedral will be open to the public from 14September 2019 – 2  January 2020.

About the COMING HOME project by the National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery has been collecting portraits of men and women who have made a significant contribution to British life and history since 1856.

As part of COMING HOME, the Gallery will be working with local museums, galleries and other venues to provide communities across the country with the opportunity to celebrate their local heroes.

COMING HOME has been made possible by the National Portrait Gallery, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, generous contributions from The Thompson Family Charitable Trust and funds raised at the Gallery’s Portrait Gala in 2017.

Image Credit: Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c.1756 © National Portrait Gallery, London