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Sir Hubert von Herkomer

1 of 6 portraits by F. Goedecker

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Sir Hubert von Herkomer

by F. Goedecker
Watercolour and pencil on blue paper , 1883-1884
12 5/8 in. x 7 1/8 in. (321 mm x 181 mm)
NPG 2720

Inscriptionback to top

Signed in monogram in pencil lower right: ‘FG’;
inscr. in ink inside ruled box lower centre: ‘Mr. HUBERT HERKOMER . A.R.A / January 26 1884’.

This portraitback to top

This is the original drawing for the chromolithograph published by Vanity Fair on 26 January 1884 over the caption ‘Painter, Sculptor, Blacksmith etc’ in allusion to Herkomer’s multi-media career and relatively humble background. An alternative title is ‘Professor Hair-Komer’. [1] It is one of 114 Vanity Fair drawings acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1934. [2]

The accompanying text in Vanity Fair, by Thomas Gibson Bowles, writing as ‘Jehu Junior’, reads:

Mr Herkomer is a Bavarian, an artist and a handicraftsman. He was born five-and-thirty years ago of poor parents who first wandered to America, and then gravitated to England and Mr Herkomer himself is now naturalised as an Englishman. He is a musician, a painter, a sculptor, and a blacksmith; and in all these he is pre-eminent, with that pre-eminence which the union of mental power and manual skill alone can give. He is an enthusiast, as all true artists must be; he believes in mesmerism, though he has given up its practice on account of the physical exertion he found it cause [sic]; he works very hard; and he neither drinks alcohol nor smokes tobacco. It is as a painter that he is best known, and in this he is as marvellously rapid a worker as he has been a successful exhibitor. He is altogether a very notable and interesting man. [3]

By the end of 1883, Herkomer was a well-established figure in the art world. He completed a successful visit to the USA in June, exhibited four works at the Royal Academy and eight at the Grosvenor Gallery (including portraits of Hans Richter and Joseph Joachim) and in October opened his art school at Bushey.

By contrast, virtually nothing is known of the artist, Franz Goedecker, whose dates have not yet been ascertained. Vanity Fair published only four of his caricatures; [4] it is believed that with his compatriot Constantine von Grimm he was commissioned to provide portraits of a few celebrated German-born personalities to mark current festivities in Germany. In 1883 he sent photographs of his work to John Ruskin, who replied favourably: ‘If you add to your present gift of seizing grotesque or abnormal character … you might win for yourself such an honourable fame as that of Hogarth.’ [5]

See NPG collection 2566–2606, 2698–2746, 2964–3012, 3265–3300, 4605–4611, 4627–4636, 4707(1–30), 4711–4758

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) Although Herkomer became Slade Professor only in 1885.
2) It was listed as no.795 in an undated checklist, ‘Catalogue of Vanity Fair Cartoons 1869–1904 being sold by Vanity Fair, Essex St, Strand at varying prices’; see NPG collection 2566–2606, 2698–2746, 2964–3012, 3265–3300, 4605–4611, 4627–4636, 4707(1–30), 4711–4758.
3) ‘Men of the Day. no.CCXCVII. Mr Hubert Herkomer A.R.A.’, Vanity Fair, 26 Jan. 1884, p.51.
4) The others are of Count Gleichen, Carl Haag and Tom Nickells.
5) Letter from J. Ruskin to F. Goedecker (extract); quoted Cook & Wedderburn 1903–12, vol.14, p.490.

Physical descriptionback to top

Whole-length, standing, profile to left, with large nose, long black hair and forked beard, arms akimbo, hands in pockets, wearing white shirt, red tie with large flat knot, grey morning suit, black shoes.

Provenanceback to top

Vanity Fair until 1930s; Maggs Bros, from whom purchased 1934.

Exhibitionsback to top

Vanity Fair: An Exhibition of Original Cartoons, NPG, London, 1976 (2720).

Reproductionsback to top

Copies of the print after NPG 2720
Chromolithograph by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Vanity Fair, 26 January 1884; copies colls NPG Archive; Henry Moore Inst. Archive, Leeds; Getty Images, 50700642; and MEPL, London, 10075248.

View all known portraits for Sir Hubert von Herkomer