Sir Hubert von Herkomer
- Extended catalogue entry
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Sir Hubert von Herkomer
by (Edward) Onslow Ford
Terracotta bust, 1877
19 5/8 in. (500mm) high
Click on the links below to find out more:
Inscriptionback to top
Signed and dated under left shoulder: ‘E Onslow Ford 1877’ (initial letter indistinct).
This portraitback to top
This is one of two near-identical, under life-size works by Edward Onslow Ford, executed at a date when both artist and sitter were rising figures in the art world. The two could have met in Munich, where Ford studied in the early 1870s and Herkomer was a frequent visitor, spending summers between 1871 and 1873 painting scenes of Bavarian peasant life.  Sittings probably took place in Herkomer’s London studio in Ebury Street, as Ford lived in Blackheath until 1879 and Herkomer was resident in Bushey from 1875.
It is likely that Ford was attracted to Herkomer’s distinctive features and forceful personality, as well as to the painter’s fame following the success of The Last Muster (1875).
Both busts are signed and dated 1877. One was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1878 (235), where Herkomer’s work also appeared. The other (presumably) was shown at the Royal Academy in 1879 (1578), where it was noted by Tom Taylor in the Graphic,  without further comment, and by The Times as ‘among the busts most noticeable for subject and artistic treatment together’.  One of the two remained with the sitter and his successors at the Bushey art school (see ‘All known portraits, By other artists, 1877 [b]’), while NPG 6196 was perhaps purchased by Alfred Jones, of Bath, from whose collection it was acquired in 1924. 
In 1897 Ford executed a second bust of Herkomer, in bronze, NPG 2461.
Although he was better known for ideal subjects, Ford’s portrait busts were much admired and described as ‘speaking likenesses: in every instance the man himself ... is before you’. 
Dr Jan Marsh
Footnotesback to top
1) See Landsberg 1999, p.105 n.110.
2) Graphic, 7 June 1897, p.558.
3) The Times, 6 June 1879, p.4; confusingly, this review identifies it as a bronze. No bronze versions are currently known and it is not otherwise recorded that this first bust of Herkomer, with beard, was ever cast.
4) The acquisition appears to have been an informal gift. In a letter to J.D. Milner dated 14 May 1924, Jones stated that when he came to London later in the week, ‘I intend bringing along the portrait bus
t of Carlile [sic] also H. Herkomer RA. and will leave the same at the Gallery for you.’ See NPG RP 2030.
5) Spielmann 1901, p.63.
Physical descriptionback to top
Bust, looking left, with forked beard, wearing soft-collar shirt or smock under loose jacket.
Conservationback to top
Provenanceback to top
Alfred Jones, Bath, by whom deposited in 1924; transferred to Permanent Collection in 1993.
Exhibitionsback to top
Breaking the Mould: Materials and Methods of Portrait Sculpture, NPG, London, 1995–6.
Reproductionsback to top
National Portrait Gallery, London (Description of Portraits submitted for Inspection, vol.xvi, no.6, NPG 87/6, NPG Archive).