Oscar Wilde portrait to return to England for Tate Britain display

A full-length portrait of Oscar Wilde will be on show in the UK the first time ever. The picture, which was painted as a wedding present for a young Wilde for his marriage to Constance and has been in Los Angeles since the 1920s.
The painting is set to be the star of a new exhibition at Tate Britain for 2017, entitled Queer British Art 1861-1967. It depicts Wilde when he was just 27 and stands at six foot tall.
Clare Barlow, the exhibition curator, said: “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.”
Painted by Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington, a US artist, it was presented to the newly-married couple in 1884. The couple then hung it above the fireplace in their home in Chelsea for several years.
Unfortunately, when he was at his most famous, Wilde was accused of “posing as a sodomite” by the Marquess of Queensberry, who was the father of his lover Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde sued him over the accusation, but the trial collapsed after evidence was presented showing that he had indeed had relationships with other men.
After this, he was sentenced to two years in prison in solitary confinement and with hard labour after being charged with gross indecency. After his release from prison, he was ill, bankrupt and separated from his wife. He died at the age of 46 in 1900 while in exile in France.
Wilde was declared bankrupt while awaiting the trial and so all of his belongings were sold to pay off his debt, including the portrait, which was bought by his friends Ernest and Ada Leverson. The couple kept it in storage at their Kensington house before it was moved to the home of Robert Ross, a past lover and lifelong friend of Wilde.
When Wilde died, the portrait was sold to William Andrews Clark, a US collector. Since this time, it has remained in the US. It is now being loaned to Tate Britain by the William Andrews Memorial Library especially for the exhibition, where it will be displayed beside the door of Wilde’s jail cell.
The exhibition is to mark 50 years since male homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales. Works included will range from 1861, which was when the death penalty for sodomy was abolished, up to 1967 when the Sexual Offences act was passed.
Other artists to be included in the show include Francis Bacon, john Singer, ethel Sands and John Singer Sargent. The exhibition will run at Tate Britain from April 5th October 1st, 2017.