The Empty Chair by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes, R. A. (1844-1927). Watercolor on paper. 1870. Collection: The Free Library of Philadelphia. Thanks to Katharine Chandler, Reference Librarian of the Rare Book Room at the Free Library, for pointing out that her institution possessed original watercolor and for providing the URL of the image.

A slightly different version of this tribute to Charles Dickens — the chair appears at slightly different angle — appeared in The Graphic in the issue of 9 June 1870. According to Thomson,

The sudden death of the novelist, on June 9th, 1870, changed everything [about Fildes' plans for illustrating the second half of The Mystery of Edwin Drood]. All the same, "at the request of the family, who wished me to fulfil the desire of the great writer, they asked me after the funeral to come and stay with them, and it was then, while in the house of mourning, I conceived the idea of 'The Empty Chair,' and at once got my colours from London, and, with their permission, made the water-colour drawing a very faithful record of his library; and stayed with them until they left the house prior to the sale." [p. 28]

Related Material


Thomson, David Croal. The Art Annual, 1895: The Life and Work of Luke Fildes, R. A. With numerous illustrations. London: The Art Journal Office (294, City Road, and 26, Ivy Lane), Christmas 1895.

Last modified 27 August 2012