Schmiechen, Hermann (1855-1923)

Schmiechen, Hermann (1855-1923)

Hermann Schmiechen was a distinguished German painter of portraits, figures and landscapes. Born in Neumarkt, Prussian Silesia, his early tuition was undertaken at the Royal Academy in Breslau under the astute guidance of Albrecht Bräuer, before he enrolled at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, studying under Eduard von Gebhardt and Julius Roeting. This was followed by further studies at the illustrious Académie Julian in Paris.

With such a cornucopia of academic nous, the young painter was destined for a fruitful career. In 1878, he produced his first portrait of significance - a sensitive rendering of the dramatic soprano, Lillian Nordica. With her left hand clutched to her heart, her gentle expression is reminiscent of a doting mother looking upon a child. It’s sincere, gracious, and affectionate. Schmiechen was now recognised as an artist of note and numerous patrons clamoured for his attention.

In 1883, quite a year, he travelled to London at the behest of Queen Victoria to produce portraits for the aristocracy. These included Royal commissions and his depiction of H.R.H. the Princess Frederica of Hanover was shown at the Royal Academy. Around the same time, he became associated with the Theosophical Society and its co-founder, the mystic, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. It was via the Society that he created two works, which remain a topic of much interest and scholarly debate. At his London studio, he painted images of mahatma Koot Hoomi and mahatma Morya - "Masters of the Ancient Wisdom". They weren’t present for the sitting, instead, likenesses were conveyed to him psychically. He was a convert and numerous meetings were held at his home.

By 1891, he moved into a splendid townhouse at 7 Cromwell Street, Kensington - the former residence of Sir John Everett Millais. The census of that year lists five staff including a footman and a German cook. He knew Millais well and attended his daughter’s wedding reception. Firmly entrenched in the ‘right’ circles, his diary was rarely empty.

When into his mid-40s, he moved to Charlottenburg, near Berlin, and his last painting of note was a commission to depict Kaiser Wilhelm in full-dress naval uniform.

Today, Hermann Schmiechen is represented in the Royal Collection Trust, Harvard Art Museums, and the Alte Nationalgalerie. 


Rijksmuseum, Royal Academy in London, Liverpool, Manchester.

Public Collections

Royal Collection Trust, Harvard Art Museums, Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Dumbarton Castle, Flintshire Record Office, National Trust (Cragside), National Trust (Polesden Lacey), The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers.



Born in Neumarkt, Prussian Silesia, to August Schmiechen and Emile Schmiechen.


Enrolled at the Royal Academy of Arts and Crafts at Breslau where he studied under Albrecht Bräuer.


Enrolled at the Düsseldorf Art Academy where he studied under Eduard von Gebhardt and Julius Roeting.


Studied at the Académie Julian in Paris.


Painted the opera singer Lillian Nordica.


Painted Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck.


Married Antonia Schmiechen (nee Gebhard) in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Invited by Queen Victoria to travel to England and undertake portraits for the British aristocracy.


Became a member of the Theosophical Society and undertook portraits of Mahatma Koot Hoomi, Mahatma Morya and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.
Painted Princess Frederica of Hanover, Baroness von Pawel-Rammingen.
Debuted at the Royal Academy with a portrait of ‘H.R.H. the Princess Frederica of Hanover.’ He exhibited a total of seven works between 1884 and 1895.


Lived at Harrington Road, South Kensington, London.


Lived at Cromwell Street, Kensington, London, with his wife, three children, footman, cook, nurse, housemaid and an undernurse.

Attended the wedding reception of Miss Sophie Millais, youngest daughter of Sir John Everett Millais, and Mr Douglas L MacEwan. 

Mentioned in the Sporting Gazette.

“Favourite of portrait painters among a certain set is Mr. Hermann Schmiechen, who inhabits Sir John Millais' old house in Cromwell-place. Life-size portraits, as most of these are, take up a deal of room, and the studio is insufficient for these, which overflow upstairs and into Madam's boudoir. There is Lady Sudeley in blue velvet, Lady Octavia Shaw Steward, Lady Grace Bazley White - a charming full-length figure in a simply-made white satin gown and a pearl necklace - Sir Edward Elphinstone, Mrs. Labouchere, looking most severe in a red dress, and Mrs. Johnstone Foster, of Moor Park, Shropshire, and her daughters. A small picture representing a girl's head, with a delicate, pathetic face and long auburn hair, is signalised by that peculiar mode of painting the eyes which always makes the spectator of two minds as to whether they are shut or open. There is, of course, a celebrated example of this tour de force; and if one questions whether it were worth doing, there can be no doubt but that Mr. Schmiechen has done it well, for while to me the girl appeared to have just cried herself to sleep, my companion thought she had just awakened.”


Gained British citizenship.

Mentioned in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.

“By desire of H. R. H. Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, a series of nine tableaux vivants has been arranged by the Countess of Cottenham, Mrs. Tyssen Amherst, Lady William Cecil, and her sisters, under the direction of the artist, Mr. Hermann Schmiechen, for the benefit of the Royal School of Art-Needlework. Many well-known ladies are taking part in them, and the tableaux promise to be in every way a great success. The nine tableaux will represent the history of art-needlework, beginning with the ancient Egyptian, and ending with an allegorical scene representing the Goddess of Industry, &c. Queen's Gate Hall has been chosen for the purpose, and the performances will come off on May 19th and 20th. H. R. H. Princess Christian will be present. Tickets can be obtained from the Countess of Cottenham, 66 Queen's-gate, S. W.; from Mrs. Tyssen Amherst, 8 Grosvenor-square; and at the depot of the Royal School of Art-Needlework, 174 Regent-Street.”


Mentioned in The Evening Standard.

“Mr. Hermann Schmiechen has had the honour to submit at Osborne, for her Majesty's inspection, his portraits of the Countess of Mar and Kellie, daughter of the Countess of Shaftesbury; the Lady Margaret Sackville, daughter of Earl and Countess De La Warr, and Mrs Bloomfield Moore. Her Majesty expressed much interest in the pictures.”


Lived in Charlottenburg, near Berlin, Germany.


Mentioned in The Morning Leader.

“His Portrait Painted For The German Club.

Kaiser Wilhelm has just had his latest portrait painted. It represents him in life-size, full-dress naval uniform, and he is very pleased with it. The artist is Mr. Hermann Schmiechen, who has painted nearly the whole of our aristocracy, in addition to kings and queens and other members of royal families. The portrait was painted by command of his Majesty for the German Athenæum Club in London, to whom it was presented a day or two ago. Mr. Schmiechen is himself in London at the present time, and yesterday a ‘Morning Leader’ representative had an interesting conversation with him concerning kings and emperors as sitters. 

‘The German Kaiser,’ said Mr. Schmiechen, ‘never gave me what can be termed a proper sitting. I was allowed to see him from time to time, and I suppose I was able to see him at close quarters for about five hours altogether. This easily enabled me to study every characteristic.’ ‘When the subject was first broached the Emperor asked me how I intended to depict him. I told him that I wished to paint him in full-dress naval uniform.’ ‘What background are you going to give!’ asked the Kaiser. I replied that I should paint in a vague seascape. The Kaiser said ‘Yes’, and then he said, very suddenly, ‘But be sure and see that you don't paint In a lighthouse!' 

‘I had not the faintest notion at the time why he should mention that so particularly, but, of course, I replied at once that I would not put in a lighthouse, and that I had had no intention of doing so.’ ‘Afterwards I made enquiries, and the mystery became clear. I found that when admirals in the German Navy retire it is the custom to present them with a little silver lighthouse!’”


Died in Berlin.

Stay In Touch
Subscribe to our Wednesday newsletter for the latest finds and 10% off your order.