Posted 05 Mar 2017, by
Bushey Museum and Art Gallery
Bushey Museum and Art Gallery, Hertfordshire: a local museum with a nationally-significant collection of art, artefacts and ephemera relating to the prominent portrait and genre painter, Sir Hubert von Herkomer. Adding to its extensive collection is this monumental portrait of Hubert, painted, interestingly, by his lesser-known and arguably underappreciated cousin Herman Herkomer. In America since 1915, all of us at Bushey were delighted to catch wind that the artwork was being shipped from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for auction at Christie’s in December 2016. After a gruelling bid at the auction house, we are now the proud owners and invite visitors to view the work in the Herkomer Room of Bushey Museum.
The town of Bushey was once home to Hubert’s exotic and elaborate ‘Bavarian Castle’ – ‘Lululaund’. The artistry and skill of the Herkomer family are reflected in the design; his father Lorenz, a wood carver, and his uncles John (father of Herman) and Anton, a woodcarver and a weaver respectively, assisted with the execution of Hubert’s elaborate designs with carved interior decorations and draperies. Originally commissioned from a design by Henry Hobson Richardson, the mansion was constructed of grey Bavarian tufa and featured a German-gothic-style interior – reflecting the family’s Bavarian origins. Although the estate was eventually demolished in 1939 visitors can still see the remaining front elevation and adjoining rose garden, which was once the site of Hubert’s Herkomer School of Art.
Herman seems to pay homage to Hubert’s remarkable career in this rather proud portrait. His success at the Royal Academy with paintings such as TheLast Muster (1875), his impressive portrait clientele including sitters such as Richard Wagner and John Ruskin, and his directorship of his own school of art in Bushey, Hertfordshire – led him to succeed John Ruskin as Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford in 1885. It is in this role that he is here depicted, proudly donning his ceremonial gown and mortar board.
But one shouldn’t forget Hubert’s lesser-known cousin, Herman, who eventually earned his own recognition as a portrait painter. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887 and again at the Paris Salon the following year, where it received an honourable mention, this portrait of Hubert was one of his most acclaimed. Herman’s artistic education was in part influenced by his older cousin, whose paintings he copied during a portrait painting tour together of the United States in 1882. Herman’s eventual recognition led to a falling out between the pair in the 1890s.
An extensive collection of portraits by both Hubert and Herman can be viewed on Art UK.