About this artwork

This self-portrait shows the artist, Charles Altamont Doyle, looking straight at the viewer, sketchbook and pencil in hand as if it is them he is drawing rather than himself. It is a captivating study, made all the more intriguing by the ethereal depiction of a woman over his left shoulder. At the bottom of the paper it says: “That’s his guardian angel over the left, utterly disgusted”. Doyle spent most of his career employed by the Office of Works in Edinburgh and also enjoyed some success as an illustrator. He suffered from alcoholism, epilepsy and ultimately insanity, and was committed to the Montrose Royal Lunatic Asylum, where this self-portrait, which comes from a dismembered sketchbook, was drawn. It is signed and dated, 4 May 1888.

Charles Altamont Doyle

Charles Altamont Doyle

Doyle was from a family of artists. He was born and raised in England but in 1849 he moved to Edinburgh, where he would spend most of his career employed by the Office of Works, whilst also enjoying some success as an illustrator. He contributed to publications such as: ‘The Illustrated Times’ (1859-60), ‘London Society’ (1863-64), ‘The Graphic’ (1877) and ‘Our Trip to Blunderland’ (1877). He exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and notably depicted fantastic subjects, including scenes with elves and fairies. Doyle did, however, suffer from alcoholism, epilepsy and ultimately insanity. He was committed to Fordoun House nursing home in 1881 before being transferred to Montrose Royal Lunatic Asylum. He was the father of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.