Hercules Brabazon Brabazon

1 portrait on display in Room 29 at the National Portrait Gallery

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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
NPG 5706

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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. [1] 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. [2]

Ormond and Kilmurray suggest that Sargent’s watercolours may have been influenced by Brabazon’s. [3] 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. [4]

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’); [5] Mount dates it to 1893.[6] 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.[7] 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.

Carol Blackett-Ord

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.

Hardie 2004b.

View all known portraits for Hercules Brabazon Brabazon