von Herkomer

13 Mar

vonHerkomerThe more you learn about a subject the more interesting it becomes and so it seems with von Herkomer.

I was surprised that he was suggested to follow Ruskin as Slade Professor at Oxford by no less a person than Ruskin himself. Herkomer was a young man when, in 1878, he met the 59 year old, frail Ruskin. Ruskin was apparently charmed by Herkomer’s exuberance (and his zither playing!). Herkomer, in his turn was impressed by Ruskin’s wide reaching conversation and his (unexpected to me), charm of manner. (Herkomer was eventually appointed as Slade Professor in 1885.)

In 1879 Ruskin sat for a portrait by Herkomer, The interest in this is firstly, it is an excellent portrait and secondly, the way Herkomer approached his subject was so different to Ruskin, that it is remarkable that Ruskin tolerated the experience (and supported the Slade Professor plan.) Whereas Ruskin made minutely observed outlines and details and then added colour, Herkomer covered the paper rapidly with a wash in grey or ochre then sketched his subject in charcoal, working over this with a long-haired brush. Ruskin found Herkomer’s ability to produce a likeness from such a hastily drawn sketch, amazing.

Ruskin thought photographs did not flatter him, but he liked the portrait. He wrote that it was full of character though ‘not like him in the ordinary sense’ and ‘the first that has ever given what good may be gleaned out of the clods of my face’

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