Charles Dickens colourised portrait

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Charles Dickens Museum/Oliver Clyde

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This image has been released ahead of the anniversary of Charles Dickens’ death on 9 June

Black-and-white photographs of Charles Dickens have been “colourised” using digital techniques to reveal a true likeness of the 19th Century novelist.

The Charles Dickens Museum researched the writer’s fashion styles and the complexion of his living descendants to create the images for a new exhibition.

The first picture to be released shows a smiling 47-year-old Dickens with tanned skin and a tartan waistcoat.

Curator Frankie Kubicki said it “really gives a hint of what he was like”.

“It can be easy to picture Dickens as an austere figure… but descriptions of Dickens and his clothes paint a picture of a Savile Row shopper with a keen sense of style [and] a fondness for a natty waistcoat,” she said.

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Charles Dickens Museum

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The original photograph was taken by Herbert Watkins in 1859

Eight photos from the museum’s archive have been colourised, with the first released ahead of the 150th anniversary of Dickens’ death on 9 June.

Details of each original portrait session were looked at along with the clothes and accessories the writer had chosen on each occasion.

To make the images as accurate as possible experts studied the complexion and skin tone of two of his great-great grandsons in similar conditions to those of the photography sessions.

Photographer and artist Oliver Clyde said the biggest surprise he had found when creating the pictures was the writer’s skin colour.

“Dickens bucks the image of the pallid Victorian complexion by being tanned and healthy looking,” he said.

“We know he loved travelling and being outside in the sun and that is reflected in the images.”

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Philip Mould & Company

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A “lost” portrait of Dickens when he was 31 will also form part of the exhibition

The pictures will form part of a new exhibition called Technicolour Dickens: The Living Image of Charles Dickens.

It will be in place once the museum, based in one of Dickens’ old homes in Bloomsbury, central London, is able to reopen when lockdown restrictions are eased.

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