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Samuel Drummond (1765-1844)

Self-Portrait in the Artist's Studio with the Painting of 'The Death of Nelson' after 1808

Oil on panel | 49.6 x 61.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 405843

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  • Samuel Drummond was probably born in London and, at the age of about 13 was apprenticed to the sea service, where he remained for six or seven years. Having developed a taste for art, in 1791 he left his career at sea to attend the Royal Academy Schools. He established himself as a portrait painter before achieving some success in the field of naval and history painting. He exhibited over three hundred works at the Royal Academy and was elected an Associate in 1808.

    Drummond portrays himself in his studio, which is conventionally lit via an elevated window. He is surrounded by the accoutrements of his profession: behind him are his paints and a vase full of brushes, while various military studio props are arranged on the floor. On the right, where the light is most flattering, a platform and chair have been  set up for portrait sittings. An easel in the centre carries one of his most important naval subjects, The Death of Nelson. Drummond made many versions of this painting between 1805 and 1806, the most successful of which was turned into an engraving. On the wall behind is a framed study for another of his works, Captain William Rogers capturing the ‘Jeune Richard’, 1 October 1807.

    It should not be assumed that this is an accurate reflection of the artist’s working environment. It is likely that Drummond painted this picture to advertise his services to potential clients. Accordingly, the studio is neat and tidy (not even his palette has been sullied), and around the room are numerous references to his academic and artistic credentials, including two folios lent against the easel and books on the floor in the foreground. On the wall behind him are two shadowy Classical figures probably representing the ‘Judgement of Paris’: it is not clear whether this is a drawing or a sculptural group, perhaps hinting at the artist’s knowledge of the long-standing debate amongst scholars over which is the superior art form.

    Text adapted from Portrait of the Artist, London, 2016

    Purchased by Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on panel


    49.6 x 61.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

    62.5 x 72.8 x 7.0 cm (frame, external)

  • Other number(s)
    Alternative title(s)

    Self-Portrait in the Artist's Studio Painting 'The Death of Nelson'

    The artist Samuel Drummond (?) in his studio