Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) was an unsuccessful poet whose suicide became a symbol of blighted artistic genius. Wallis used his friend George Meredith (1828-1909), also a struggling writer, as the model. Recent research has questioned whether Chatterton was living in poverty and if his death was suicide or accident (Nick Groom, 2004).When the large painting of this subject was first exhibited as 'Chatterton' at the Royal Academy, Wallis added a quote from Christopher Marlowe: ' Cut is the branch that might have grown straight, And burned is Appollo's laurel bough'. A label on the verso of this painted version reads: The Death of Chatteton/ the original painting/ Study by H Wallis/-'The Marvellous Boy/ The sleepless soul, that perished in his pride'/ Wordsworth.The Birmingham painting is a small version of the final painting which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856 and now in the collection of Tate. The above verso inscription suggests that this is a study; Another small version is in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, US which is more likely to be the replica.

  • Presented by the Rt Hon William Kendrick, 1918.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


Association Artist Organisation
Artist Henry Wallis -


Type Position(s) Method Date(s) Notes
Monogram bottom left Handwritten - brown paint
The Death of Chatterton/ the original paintings/ Study by H. Wallis/ - 'The Marvellous Boy / The sleepless soul, that perished in his pride' / Wordsworth
Inscription reverse - - in ink on label


Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
Loan Exhibition of Pictures from Birmingham Art Gallery
46 Agnews, London 1957 - 1957
Victorian Paintings
73 Nottingham University Art Gallery 1959-01-20 - 1959-06-21
19th Century English Art
46 Folkstone Art Gallery 1965 - 1965
Victorian Paintings: 1837-1890
50 Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield 1968-09 - 1968-11
Royal Academy of Arts Bicentenary Exhibition 1768-1968
393 Royal Academy, London 1968-12-14 - 1968-03-02
Death, Heaven and the Victorians
32 Brighton Museum and Art Gallery 1970-05-06 - 1970-08-03
Visions of Love and Life: Pre-Raphaelite Art from the Birmingham Collection
39 Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington (and Amerian tour) 1995-03-09 - 1995-05-07
Fontane und die Bildende Kunst [Theodore Fontane and the Visual Arts]
70 Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin 1998-09-01 - 1998-11-29


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
The Works of John Ruskin XIV
1903-1912 39 vols p.60
Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
1905 London and New York vol 2, p.417
City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham: Catalogue of Paintings
1960 City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham p.149
Britain's Paintings - The Story of Art Through Masterpieces in British Collections
Neil Macgregor - The Daily Telegraph Part 3, p.23
Visions of Love and Life: Pre-Raphaelite Art from the Birmingham Collection, England
Stephen Wildman 1995 Art Services International, Alexandria, Virginia p.156
Fontane und die Bildende Kunst
1998 Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin p.118, repr.70
Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in Birmingham
2008 Public Catalogue Foundation, London p.195


S. Mendel; sold Christie's, 24 April 1875 (384) 260 guineas; Baron Albert Grant; sold Christie's, 28 April 1877 (129) 150 guineas; Rt. Hon William Kendrick PC; Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, 1918.

Associated people

Name Type
Thomas Chatterton Depicted
George Meredith Artist's model

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