A full length portrait of the writer, owned by Wilde himself, is to go on display as part of Tate Britain’s Queer British Art 1861-1967 it has been announced. 

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Oscar Wilde, 1881. Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington. William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. 

On display as part of the Queer British Art exhibition running at Tate Britain from the 5th April, the portrait will be exhibited in the UK for the very first time.

When Oscar Wilde was declared bankrupt while awaiting trial for ‘gross indecency, he was forced to sell the portrait for legal fees. Since then it has been held in an American collection for almost a century.

As the exhibition opens in April, the full length portrait will be displayed alongside the prison cell door behind which Wilde was held in Reading Gaol.

Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington presented the portrait to the sitter and his new wife Constance as a wedding present in 1884 and was considered to be the couple’s most prized possession.

Talking about the news Alex Farquharson, Director, Tate Britain, said: “It’s wonderful to be displaying this important portrait of Oscar Wilde for the first time in Britain. It’s an extraordinary image of Wilde on the brink of fame, before imprisonment destroyed his health and reputation. Viewing it next to the door of his gaol cell will be a powerful experience that captures the triumph and tragedy of his career.”

Meanwhile curator of Queer British Art Clare Barlow commented: “The six foot oil painting depicts him as a slender 27-year-old on the cusp of success. His stance is confident, holding a pair of gloves in one hand while the other clasps a silver-topped cane. It presents a different, more sombre image to the one we are more familiar with.”

The portrait can be seen as part of Queer British Art on display at Tate Britain from the 5th April until the 1st October 2017. For more information about the exhibition visit: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/queer-british-art-1861-1967

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