Hubert Von Herkomer: A Victorian Artist
Artist(s): Hubert Von Herkomer
Author(s): Lee MacCormick Edwards
Year published: 1999
Publisher: Lund Humphries
Publisher Location: London
Total Pages: 192
Illustrations: Includes 20 colour and 155 b&w illustrations
Herkomer: A Victorian artist is a study of the life and work of the Victorian portraitist and social-realist painter, a self-made polymath whose boundless enthusiasm led him to take an early and important interest in photography, film-making, stagecraft and motoring.
Born in Waal, in Bavaria, Herkomer (1849–1914) emigrated with his family first to America, then to the United Kingdom. He received a rudimentary art training from his father who was a woodcarver. Much influenced by the Idyllic School and Frederick Walker, he began his career as an artist for illustrated magazines, particularly The Graphic. His huge sentimental canvas, The Last Muster (1875), portraying Chelsea pensioners in a church, won him enormous acclaim. He returned to America in 1882 for the first of a series of highly successful lecture tours, during which he painted many important portraits. In 1885, he persuaded the celebrated American architect Henry Hobson Richardson to realise his dream of Lululaund, a mansion in Bushey in the United Kingdom; the estate grounds also incorporated studios, workshops, an art school, and later stage and film studios. The productions in his theatre at Bushey influenced the avant-garde stagings of Edward Gordon Craig.
Although an important figure in the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Academy, on familiar terms with the royal family, with Edmund Gosse, Thomas Hardy and John Ruskin, eventually replacing Ruskin as Slade professor of Art in Oxford, Herkomer never won total acceptance from the British establishment. He shuttled between England and Germany and acted as a conduit for many artistic exchanges but he was ultimately a victim of the deteriorating relationship between the two countries.
Lee MacCormick Edwards examines the origins of Herkomer’s social realist work and his links with the Arts and Crafts movement. Letters, journals and previously undiscovered manuscript materials are used to give fresh insights into his ambitions and concerns. In an epilogue, Lee MacCormick Edwards provides a fascinating account of his influence on Vincent van Gogh, who held his work in highest esteem.