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National Portrait Gallery Marks 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad by James Craig Annan, 1923. Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London.

LONDON.-To mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of novelist, Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), the National Portrait Gallery is showing a small photographic display of portraits of the author. The display, open until 12 February 2008, includes photographic portraits of Conrad taken between 1904 and 1923. Among the selection is a striking photograph taken by the influential Scottish photographer James Craig Annan. Taken in 1923, when both sitter and photographer had established international reputations in their chosen fields, this portrait has been recently acquired by the Gallery.

Joseph Conrad is recognized as one of the greatest novelists in the English language. In works such as Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim (both 1899), he examined complex moral situations in exotic locations, often inspired by his twenty-year career as a sailor. His prose is marked by reflective irony and written with a stylistic virtuosity, which is all the more remarkable for a writer who did not know a word of English until he was nineteen, and never spoke it fluently.

Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski on 3 December 1857 in the Ukraine to upper-class Polish parents, Conrad read authors such as Dickens in French translation. He was orphaned in childhood and became a sailor aged sixteen, an unusual decision for a boy of his class and nationality. His adventurous life on the sea, traveling the world with the French and English merchant navy, provided rich source material for his later writing, what Henry James described as his 'immense treasure'.

Conrad settled in England, marrying Jessie George and becoming a naturalized British subject in 1896. His major phase as a writer was between 1897 and 1911, living for much of that time near Hythe in Kent. Major works include: Nostromo (1897), The Secret Agent (1907) and Under Western Eyes (1911).

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