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John Ruskin

4 of 77 portraits of John Ruskin

John Ruskin, by Sir Hubert von Herkomer, 1879 - NPG 1336 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

John Ruskin

by Sir Hubert von Herkomer
watercolour, 1879
29 3/4 in. x 19 3/4 in. (755 mm x 503 mm)
Given by Sir Hubert von Herkomer, 1903
Primary Collection
NPG 1336

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Sitterback to top

  • John Ruskin (1819-1900), Writer, artist and social reformer. Sitter associated with 77 portraits.

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  • Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914), Painter and illustrator. Artist associated with 47 portraits, Sitter in 11 portraits.

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Hubert Herkomer (the von was added later) was a self-taught artist and son of a woodcarver. in 1879 he undertook this watercolour portrait of John Ruskin, the great writer on art, as one of a group of studies of famous men that he intended to bequeath to his children. He described the circumstances in which it was painted in a later newspaper article: 'I painted John Ruskin in 1879. It was a watercolour, a drawing of head and shoulders, life-size, painted at Denmark Hill, in the little garret bedroom which had formerly been his nursery. He seemed most anxious not to look at the painting until I had quite finished it; whilst sitting he was theorising about the methods of painting. I used in those days to paint abnormally large watercolours and always covered the paper first with a wash of some ochre or grey, then sketched the subject with charcoal. I would then commence with a hog-hair brush, working up the ground colour with some fresh tones and out of a kind of chaos produce a head.' Ruskin liked the result, describing it as 'the first that has ever given what good can be gleaned out of the clods of my face'.

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