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Sir Hubert von Herkomer

Sir Hubert von Herkomer, by (Edward) Onslow Ford, circa 1897 -NPG 2461 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir Hubert von Herkomer

by (Edward) Onslow Ford
Bronze, circa 1897
28 in. (711 mm) high
NPG 2461

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and dated behind left shoulder: ‘E.Onslow Ford 1896’;
incised on back: ‘Hubert Herkomer’.

This portraitback to top

In 1877 the artist first produced a bust of the sitter in terracotta (NPG 6196) and his return to the same task nearly twenty years later resulted in this portrait in bronze, of which two castings are known. It was shown at the Royal Academy in 1897, by which time the sitter was a celebrated figure who had served as Slade Professor of Art at Oxford.

Though no close friendship is recorded, by the 1890s Edward Onslow Ford and Herkomer were fellow-Academicians. Owing to Herkomer’s attitude to productivity, it is likely that the bust was modelled during mutual sittings, with Herkomer drawing Ford at the same time for the portrait exhibited in 1898. [1] If so, sittings for the bust evidently began in 1895, and the incised date is that of its casting.

At the 1897 RA exhibition, Ford showed five other portrait busts, including heads of John Everett Millais, Herbert Spencer and actor George Alexander, which led one critic to note the sculptor’s ‘extraordinary power of seizing and realizing individual and transient expressions without descending to caricature’. [2] According to The Times, ‘of the best portraits, Mr Onslow Ford contributes very many; for he seems, with praiseworthy zeal, to be “taking off” his colleagues in turn, and this year gives us Mr Herkomer, Mr Briton Riviere and ... Sir John Everett Millais’. [3]

There is no information on the provenance of NPG 2461 before 1930, when its then owner, William Reynolds Stephens stated that he had ‘recently’ acquired it ‘for a very small sum’. [4] The other known cast, now with Bushey Library, [5] was presumably owned by the sitter or a neighbour/colleague. A modern fibreglass copy cast by David Perrett is in Bushey Museum.

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) RSPP 1898 (26). See ‘All known portraits, By other artists’ for E.O. Ford’s 1895 watercolour portrait by Herkomer; Landsberg 1999, p.105 n.110; and Christie’s, Newton Hall sale, 20 Jan. 2010 (201).
2) Athenaeum, 10 July 1897, p.72; however, this notice, by F.G. Stephens, does not mention the present work.
3) The Times, 16 June 1897, p.15.
4) NPG RP 2461.
5) Identical size and signature; inv. no.1965.43.

Physical descriptionback to top

Bust, head slightly to right, clean-shaven, with centre parting, jacket, waistcoat, shirt and tie.

Provenanceback to top

Sir William Reynolds Stephens, Pres. Roy. Soc. British Sculptors from whom purchased 1930.

Exhibitionsback to top

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London 1897 (2061).

Reproductionsback to top

The Studio, 1897, p.58 (probably from the other known cast).

Magazine of Art, 1898, p.72.

View all known portraits for (Edward) Onslow Ford

View all known portraits for Sir Hubert von Herkomer

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