William Bell Scott


Oil on canvas

21 x 13¾ inches (53.1 x 35 cm).

Collection of Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, accession no. PG1849.

Scott painted this self-portrait in 1867 when he was fifty-six years old. It contrasts sharply with his portrait as brooding serious young man painted by his brother David in 1832. The portrait from 1867 shows Scott wearing a wig because in 1864 he developed alopecia universalis and lost all his hair, moustache, and even his eyebrows. William Allingham’s diary for June 26, 1864 records: “Down to Chelsea and find D. G. Rossetti painting…I stay for dinner and we talk about the old P.R.Bs. Enter Fanny [Cornforth], who says something of W. B. Scott which amuses us. Scott was a dark hairy man, but after an illness has reappeared quite bald. Fanny exclaimed, ‘O my, Mr. Scott is changed! He ain’t got a hye-brow or a hye-lash – not a ‘air on his ‘ead!’”

After loosing his hair Scott always wore the black skullcap in which he is later portrayed in portraits and photographs. — Dennis T. Lanigan