German-British artist, Sir Hubert von Herkomer CVO RA, was an intriguingly versatile multi-disciplinarian. He’s known predominantly for portraits but also directed films and composed music. Born into a humble environment, he overcame the odds to win multiple awards at the highest level - ultimately receiving a knighthood from King Otto of Bavaria and King Edward VII.
Many of his works, particularly during the early part of his career, highlight the gritty realities of impoverished families. ‘High Times’, which is in the collection at the Manchester Art Gallery, depicts a homeless family desperate and stranded by a roadside. The mother feeds a young child, while another rests solemnly across her lap. The father retains a strong stance yet looks equally concerned. It’s clear that, despite his riches later in life, von Herkomer retained a sense of empathy for those less fortunate.
As he matured as an artist, portrait commissions were abundant. In 1887, he produced an exquisite depiction of Emilia Francis (née Strong), which celebrates every inch of her drapery. Her expression is enigmatic - her eyes captivating - a sense of allure, you long to understand her. Throughout the remainder of his life, he exhibited a vast array of portraits and also gained success as an etcher/engraver.
Today, Sir Hubert von Herkomer is represented in various public collections including the Tate Gallery, London, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Southampton City Art Gallery and Herkomer Museum, Germany.
Born in Waal, Bavaria. The son of Lorenz Herkomer, a wood carver, and Josephine Niggl.
Family moved to Cleveland, Ohio.
Settled in Southampton, England.
As a young man, he worked predominantly for his father - often making kites and mechanical toys.
Studied at the school of art in Southampton.
Studied at South Kensington Schools.
Debuted at the Royal Academy.
Began working as an illustrator for The Graphic newspaper
Became a British citizen and was living in Chelsea.
Married Anna Caroline Weis.
Rented cottages in Bushey, Hertfordshire.
'The Prayer Walk'
Elected an associate of the Royal Academy.
'Portrait of an Old Man with Side Whiskers'
Appeared in Vanity Fair captioned "Painter, Sculptor, Blacksmith &c".
Established an Art School in Bushey.
Following the death of his first wife, he married Eliza Lulu Griffiths who sadly died just a year later.
Appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford.
'Entranced (The Lady in Black)'
Birth of son, Lorenz, with third wife Maggie.
Elected a Royal Academician.
Became the president of the Oxford Art Society.
Elected a member of the Royal Watercolour Society.
Built a large house, architected by Henry Hobson Richardson, known as Lululaund after his wife, Lulu Griffith. It became a studio, school and theatre.
Knighted by King Otto of Bavaria.
Awarded the Pour le Mérite award by the Emperor of Germany.
Painted Queen Victoria on her deathbed lying among lilies and holding a cross. Today, the painting is held by the Royal Collection at Osborne House.
Knighted by King Edward VII.
'A Young Girl and Her Dog'
Died at Budleigh Salterton, United Kingdom.