Art historian, first director of the National Portrait Gallery, London. Scharf was the son of Georg Scharf (d. 1860), a miniature painter originally from Bavaria. He attended the schools associated with Royal Academy in (studio) art training. In 1840 he traveled as a draughtsman with Sir Charles Fellows to Asia Minor, returning 1843 on behalf of the British government. Scharf returned to England and became a book illustrator, largely of art and antiquity topics. Among his illustrations include Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome (1847), the English edition of the Handbook of Italian Painting,1851, by Franz Kugler, and Smith's classical dictionaries. In 1850 he hired a young Italian expatriot artist, G. B. Cavalcaselle who would later co-author the first important history of art in English. Scharf was among the art experts involved in the classical "courts" for the Crystal Palace exhibiton. Under Charles Lock Eastlake, he was appointed art secretary to the important Manchester Art Treasures exhibition of 1857. After the exhibition, Scharf was appointed secretary and director of the new National Portrait Gallery in London. Scharf worked tirelessly to build the historic portrait collection, increasing the gallery's collection to nearly 1000 portraits, and publishing essays on portraiture in England and elsewhere. He was made C. B. in 1885. In 1895, Scharf resigned from the Gallery, retaining a trustee appointment. He died later that the same year.
Scharf, George, Sir
The Dictionary of Art; Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.