Hercules Brabazon Brabazon
1 portrait on display in Room 29 at the National Portrait Gallery
- Extended catalogue entry
Hercules Brabazon Brabazon
by John Singer Sargent
Oil on canvas , early 1890s
28 1/2 in. x 17 in. (724 mm x 431 mm) overall
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Inscriptionback to top
Signed top right: ‘John S. Sargent’;
inscr. top left: ‘to Mr Brabazon’.
On reverse, label on stretcher: ‘LBH No. 4723 / J.S. Sargent / port of / H. Brabazon’;
label on frame: ‘Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 15, Massachusetts / SARGENT, J.S. / Portrait of a Man / T.L. 12,430 / [lent by] Mrs Richard E. Danielson / Joy Lane, / Groton, Mass. [no date]’.
This portraitback to top
‘In person, Brabazon – or “Brabby”, as one dared to speak of him – was tall and spare, with a bald cranium and side whiskers, and a gentle, courtly manner. Sargent has painted a very characteristic portrait of him,’ wrote the artist G.P. Jacomb-Hood in his memoirs.  Brabazon’s biographer C. Lewis Hind met him once in the 1890s, and his impression was of a ‘very tall, thin, keen, […] noticeable man, a presence’, a description which ties in with his appearance in the Sargent portrait. 
Ormond and Kilmurray suggest that Sargent’s watercolours may have been influenced by Brabazon’s.  In any case it was due to encouragement from fellow New English Art Club admirers – and Sargent especially – that the 70-year-old was finally persuaded to exhibit in 1892. 
NPG 5706 is undated. Charteris and McKibbin suggest a date of 1900 for it and the smaller sketch (see ‘All known portraits, By other artists, early 1890s’);  Mount dates it to 1893. Ormond and Kilmurray propose the early 1890s as most plausible on grounds of style and format, and compare NPG 5706 to Sargent’s portraits of Coventry Patmore. There are parallels between the monochrome, spare treatment and the sitters’ aloof bearing in the portraits.
There is a full-scale, undated copy of the Brabazon portrait by R.G. Eves in the collection of the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Founders/0.60. See ‘All known portraits, By other artists, 1890s’, for more portraits by Sargent of Brabazon.
Footnotesback to top
1) Jacomb-Hood 1925, p.80.
2) Hind 1912, p.33.
3) Ormond & Kilmurray 2002, p.74.
4) Hind 1912, pp.59–60. Sargent wrote the preface to the exhibition catalogue at the Goupil Gallery.
5) Charteris 1927, p.268; McKibbbin 1956, pp.85–6.
6) Mount 1969, p.432, no.938.
7) Ormond & Kilmurray 2002, pp.73–4. The portrait of Patmore is signed and dated 1894; see NPG 1079.
Physical descriptionback to top
Half-length, to left, head slightly turned, balding and whiskery, wearing black jacket and dark tie, bluish-grey background.
Provenanceback to top
The sitter; sold by family at dispersal of studio, c.1925, through D.C. Thomson of Barbizon House, London; Charles Deering; in store, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston during Second World War; Sotheby’s, NY, 8 December 1983 (200); bt. Newhouse Galleries, NY, on behalf of the NPG.
Exhibitionsback to top
Barbizon House, London, 1925 (11, ill.)
Reproductionsback to top
Ormond & Kilmurray 2002, p.74.
View all known portraits for Hercules Brabazon Brabazon