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Boxer Jeb Wharton portrait returns 'home' to liverpool

The portrait of 19th Century boxer Jeb Wharton is being put on show at the Museum of Liverpool.

Wharton was painted by Liverpool artist William Daniels in 1839, and the painting is being loaned to the museum by the National Portrait Gallery under its Coming Home project.

Although the Museum of Liverpool is currently closed due to Covid restrictions, the painting will be in the city until May 21 and it’s hoped visitors will be able to view it as soon as lockdown rules are eased.

James 'Jeb' Wharton, whose background is a mystery, was a successful boxer in the 1830s and retired undefeated in 1840. Later that decade he settled in Liverpool where he and his young wife Mary ran the Vine Tap Tavern in Great Charlotte Street.

He died in the port in April 1856, aged 44, and was buried in St John’s Cemetery below the newly opened St George’s Hall.

He is captured in oils at the height of his success and is pictured wearing his boxing gloves.

William Daniels was one of the leading Liverpool painters of the 19th Century. He was born in the Scotland Road in around 1813, and exhibited at the Liverpool Academy when he was still a teenager.

His work can be found in collections of venues including the V&A and Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, while the Walker Art Gallery holds a large number of his portraits.

Kate Johnson, Head of the Museum of Liverpool, said: “Although we are currently closed in line with national restrictions, having Jem’s portrait on display at the museum is a deeply poignant event for us.

“Not only is he a sporting pioneer who chose to make Liverpool his home, but his portrait is also testament to the outstanding contribution that Black people living in Liverpool have made to our city’s sporting heritage.

“Our aim is to highlight aspects of our city’s history that have been under-represented. We are delighted to be able to celebrate Jem Wharton’s achievements with our visitors.

“We’re sad visitors won't be able to see Jem’s portrait in the flesh for a little while, but we’re going to be sharing virtual updates on his installation through our social media channels.

“Hopefully it won’t be long before people can experience this fascinating insight into Liverpool’s history, in person, once restrictions ease.”

Top: James 'Jeb' Wharton, 1839. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery. Photo by Gareth Jones.


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