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John Clare

Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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Promoted as 'the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet', Clare spent much of his life as a poor agricultural labourer before mental illness condemned him to an asylum in 1837. His intensely detailed poetry reflects his love of his native countryside. It also movingly describes the hardship suffered by the rural poor living in a landscape being destroyed by enclosure. Clare enjoyed a brief London vogue with his Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (1820) and The Village Minstrel (1821). In 1827, he published The Shepherd's Calendar – a more political verse in which man shapes the landscape and is defined by it. Commissioned by his publisher John Taylor in 1820, this painting prompted one art critic to observe: 'What life in the eyes! What ardent thirst for excellence, and what flexibility and susceptibility to the outward impression in the quivering lips!'

National Portrait Gallery, London

London

Title

John Clare

Date

1820

Medium

oil on canvas

Measurements

H 76.2 x W 63.5 cm

Accession number

1469

Acquisition method

Purchased, 1907

Work type

Painting

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National Portrait Gallery, London

St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London WC2H 0HE England

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