Hubert von Herkomer

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Hubert von Herkomer 1909, photo by Jacob Hilsdorf .

Sir Hubert von Herkomer (born May 26, 1849 in Waal , near Landsberg am Lech , Kaufbeuren district office , Kingdom of Bavaria as Hubert Herkomer ; † March 31, 1914 in Budleigh Salterton , Hampshire , United Kingdom ) was a German-British painter and sculptor , Director and filmmaker and writer . He is also considered to be one of the pioneers of automobile sport in Germany .



Hubert Herkomer was the only child of the (art) carpenter Lorenz Herkomer, who came from Waal near Landsberg , and his wife Josephine, nee. Niggl, schoolmaster's daughter and music teacher from the nearby village of Denklingen . He had inherited the talents of both parents, but his father had envisaged a career as a visual artist for his son since he was born. The liberal father emigrated to the USA with his wife and family in 1851 and first went to New York , and from around 1853 to Cleveland . However, he returned to Europe in 1857 and settled in Southampton . The now eight-year-old learned to read and write from one of his mother's music students.He only attended a public school in Southampton for six months: probably also to save school fees (the family lived in poor conditions for a long time), and then taught him until he was 18 . Year of life almost exclusively the father.

artistic education

In the school year 1863/64 Hubert listlessly attended the local art school, where he had to copy his teacher's watercolors in his spare time; after all, he received a bronze medal for a drawing based on Michelangelo's Moses .

In 1865 a trip to Munich was possible because Lorenz Herkomer had accepted an order from his brother in America to carve four life-size evangelist figures after (smaller) figures by Peter Vischer . However, father and son only arrived there a week before the start of the long vacation. Hubert was just able to create the drawing that was required for admission to the academy. The painter Michael Echter was so impressed by her that he allowed the sixteen-year-old to take plaster models with him and correct his work during the holidays. He and his father also attended a private nude class. The stay in Munich (under the most modest of circumstances - people cooked, carved, drawn and slept in a single room!) Had to be broken off in early autumn because the passport of the father, who was naturalized in England, could not be extended in Munich and was only issued for six months traveling twice was out of the question for financial reasons. To take on the German citizenship again, however, would have meant that Hubert would have been drafted for military service.

In 1866 and 1867 the young man studied for one semester each at the South Kensington Art School . As early as the autumn of 1866 he had organized a painting class among his friends in Southampton, which, as Southampton's first art exhibition, exhibited 65 works by the group and sold three - including two by Herkomer. When the youth completed his second semester at art school in 1867, Frederick Walker's painting Bathers, exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts , was much discussed: the public rated the picture as "brilliantly progressive" or "unbearably failed", depending on the attitude. At that time, Walker became the powerful role model of Herkomer for years, who imitated Walker's development from drawing and engraving to watercolor painting to oil and accordingly tried his hand at school as an illustrator, albeit without financial success. However, he came into contact with the well-known illustrator Luke Fildes at this time when he copied a picture in the South Kensington Museum for the London Illustrated News .

First successes; Moves to London

Lonely Jane, 1868.

In 1868, in the idyllic village of Hythe , on the western side of Southampton Water , Herkomer managed , under modest circumstances, his first marketable drawings, which were cut and printed in wood by the Dalziel brothers , as well as watercolors, which the Dudley Gallery exhibited and sold in 1869.

In 1868, despite his parents' reservations, the draftsman settled in London in order to be close to possible clients: first with a family friend, in 1869 in his own apartment with a room suitable as a studio in Smith Street, Chelsea . That year his watercolor Leisure Hours was also accepted at the academy and "hung very well".

Gypsy woman, The Graphic 1870.

After a financially critical phase, in which he had even applied to play the zither and earned the bare minimum by stencil painting to decorate the South Kensington Museum, in 1870 he turned to William Luson Thomas , founder of the illustrated weekly newspaper The Graphic, which had been published since December 4, 1869 , in front. His picture was accepted immediately and he himself was invited to deliver further preliminary drawings according to his own ideas in the same quality in any quantity.

The load pattern (The final appeal) , 1875

For the next decade, Herkomer's work as an illustrator was his main and readily available source of income. His picture of veterans in the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1871 , which depicts a person who died during the service, was particularly well received . Thomas commissioned a watercolor of it for himself, and the oil painting afterwards, The Last Muster, painted in 1875 and received with applause at the Royal Academy . brought Herkomer's final breakthrough as an important painter: for the first time (to his chagrin!) he had broken away from his role model Walker in painting.

With the income flowing since 1870, Herkomer financed a summer stay in Normandy, from which he brought home the picture War News [news from the theater of war] . In 1871 he was appointed to the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colors , where he then exhibited frequently. In 1873 he met the painter Mansel Lewis , with whom he was to become a lifelong friend. Mansel also bought Herkomer's first oil painting After the Toil of the Day . 1880 founded Herkomer along with other artists the Society of Painter-etcher and Engravers , the etching (etching) and the engraving to establish (Engraving) as a recognized art forms.

Of the numerous portraits he made from around 1881, one of his first is in particular that of the war correspondent Archibald Forbes and, as counterparts, the pictures of a young English woman (Miss Katharine Grant, The Lady in White ) and an American (Mrs. Sealbee, of Boston, The Lady in Black ), 1884 and 1886; The Lady in White won him the great gold medal at the Berlin exhibition that same year and was then presented in several European cities.

From 1885 to 1894 he was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University .


Hubert von Herkomer was married three times. In 1873 he married Anna Weise († 1883) from Berlin, from this marriage there were two sons. In 1884 he married Lulu Griffiths (* 1849), daughter of the landlord Thomas Griffiths in Stanley House, Ruthin , who died in 1885. On September 2, 1888, Herkomer married his third wife, his sister-in-law Margaret Griffiths (1857–1924), in the mother tower in Landsberg, for which he had to take German citizenship and was naturalized in Landsberg. There are two daughters from this marriage.


School of Painting

Herkomer opened a two-semester painting school in Bushey in Hertfordshire, where he had lived since 1873, in 1883 , which he ran until 1904 for free. It consisted of two painting classes and an introductory class . The school embodied his vision of a very free, non-academic education in which students should be encouraged to find themselves and the styles that were appropriate for them, rather than following the teacher's style. Convinced that young people would find it difficult to relate to antiquity, for example, he renounced the drawing based on casts of ancient sculptures, which had been mandatory for beginners until then, and had his students draw from living models from the start and also paint nudes after the preparatory course.

Herkomer's leadership style, Punch  1883.

All of this was in stark contrast to the academic tradition of the time. Herkomer's unconventional but authoritarian leadership style, which was heavily criticized by the mothers of some students, was the subject of a cartoon in Punch magazine :
"No one to sit or stand" can be read under "Rules" - an allusion to Herkomer's demand "Stand by your work" [ double meaning "Stand while working", but rather "Stand by your work"]. The “self-made” broom, the set of rules and the beggar's hat complete the criticism.

The number of students, initially 25, rose to almost 100 in the school year 1893/94; a total of more than 500 students have graduated from Herkomer's school in 21 years. Among the better-known are Lucy Elizabeth Kemp-Welch (1869-1958), who became known as a horse painter, who ran the Bushey School of Painting from 1905 to 1926 after Herkomer's retreat in Bushey , and George Harcourt (1868-1947), who wrote the portrait, for example of the First Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, which his teacher had begun, completed after his sudden death.

The school building and the area had been made available and managed by a private third party from the start. In 1887 it became the Educational establishment incorporated and bonds were issued. With Herkomer's departure, everything was auctioned off with modest success. The artist acquired the land in 1912 and had it converted into a garden.

Mother tower

The mother tower in Landsberg

Herkomer was often in Germany during the summer, mostly in Bavaria. In Landsberg am Lech, where the mother, who died in 1879, had spent the last year and a half of her life, Herkomer acquired building land next to the parents' former house and began to have a 30-meter-high tower built, which lasted until around 1887 for cost reasons. Today the tower belongs to the Herkomer Museum.


The Villa Lululaund around 1900

In Bushey, where his father moved after his mother's death, between 1883 and around 1894, Herkomer realized a project that his grandfather had in mind: a family home that was also intended to be a monument to the Herkomers' artistic abilities. The villa he built was named Lulula, after his wife Lulu. Most of the house was demolished in 1939.

Automobile sport

Hubert von Herkommer at the Herkomer competition in 1905

In 1905, the enthusiastic motorist Hubert von Herkomer suggested a touring car - Rally in Germany and sponsored them. These Herkomer competitions, reliability tests, were also held over longer distances in 1906 and 1907 and made the new sport popular in Germany, among other things because, due to the artist's personal contacts, participants from the high and money nobility also came.



Herkomer's works include pictures with a social theme (his early work) and, from 1881, hundreds of portraits . The artist states, for example, that during his five-month trip to America from mid-December 1885, despite being ill for weeks at times, he created 34 portraits, with up to four sessions a day.

Later, the artist dealt with etching and photography and invented a mixed technique, which, as Herkomer engraving, caused a sensation that is common in Herkomer. He also dealt with enamel painting and goldsmithing.

In the following selection, original titles according to Herkomer's publications have been put in front. Only a few of his works have German titles in the original.

  • Lonely Jane, 1868
  • Gipsy Woman with Child, 1870, Herkomer's first drawing for The Graphic.
  • Sunday at the Chelsea Hospital [service of the invalids at Chelsea Hospital]. 1871, The Graphic.
  • Rest [The Quiet] 1872
  • At the Well 1872
  • Dinner in 1873
  • To Alpine Cheesemonger [the cheese shopper] 1873
  • Weary [The Fatigue] 1873
  • After the Toil of the Day 1873 Herkomer's first oil painting, still entirely in the style of Walker.
  • The petition: Peasants praying for a Successful Harvest [a procession in Bavaria] 1874
  • The Last Muster - Sunday at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea [The Last Muster] 1875, now Lady Lever Art Gallery , Port Sunlight
  • At Death's Door 1876
  • Portrait of Richard Wagner 1877
  • Eventide: A Scene in the Westminster Union [old women drinking tea in a poor house] 1878, oil painting after the woodcut from 1877
  • Archibald Forbes, 1881, heralded Herkomer's success as a portraitist.
  • Miss Katherine Grant ("The Lady in White"), 1884
  • Mrs. Sealbee, of Boston ("The Lady in Black"), 1886
  • Theodor von Cramer-Klett junior 1905
  • The future tied to the automobile 1905

Musical theater

  • The Sorceress . Listed in Bushey in 1887
  • Of idyll. A pictorial music play. The music composed (and the play illustrated) by Hubert Herkomer, RA; the lyrics Joseph Bennett , Novello, Ewer and Co., London 1889; 152 pp.

The play was performed at Bushey School in 1889, Herkomer wrote the story and the music, designed the sets and costumes with his wife and students, and played in the play himself. The conductor of the performance was Hans Richter .


  • Brief autobiography in The Graphic. October 26, 1876.
  • Drawing and engraving on wood. In: Art Journal 1882.
  • Art Tuition. Peacock, Printer, 1882; 19 p .; Lecture in the City Hall of Birmingham on February 10, 1882.
  • The Pictorial Music Play: An Idyl. In: The Magazine of Art. July 1889, pp. 316-324.
  • Autobiography. In: Louis Engel: From Handel to Hallé Biographical Sketches . London 1890, pp. 135–225 ( Textarchiv - Internet Archive ), also published separately ( printed for private circulation ).
  • Etching and mezzotint engraving. Macmillan, London 1892; 107 pp. ( ).
  • Scenic Art. In: The Magazine of Art. 1892, pp. 259-264. 316-320.
  • A new Black and White Art. 1896; 58 pp.
  • My School and my Gospel. A. Constable, London 1908; x + 223 p .; also at Doubleday, Page & Company, New York 1908 ( ).
    • German translation: My school . New City Museum, Landsberg am Lech 2005; 84 pp.
  • A certain phase of lithography. A lecture delivered at Lululaund, Bushey, Herts, on January 27, 1910, to a number of invited artists. Macmillan, London 1910; 38 pp.
  • The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910 ( ).
  • The Herkomers. Volume 2. Macmillan, London 1911 ( )
    • German translation: The Herkomers . New City Museum, Landsberg am Lech 1999. 192 pp.


Hubert von Herkomer was ennobled in Bavaria in 1899 and in Great Britain in 1907. He had already received three other high medals:

By the turn of the century, Herkomer had received ten medals that were very popular at the time:

Caricature: Success and Envy, 1878 ( Punch ).
  • 1878: Paris (Medal of Honor)
  • 1879: Munich (gold medal)
  • 1880: Sydney (small gold medal)
  • 1883: Vienna (gold medal)
  • 1885: Munich (gold medal)
  • 1886: Berlin (gold medal)
  • 1888: Vienna (gold medal)
  • 1889: Paris (gold medal)
  • 1892: Chicago (gold medal)
  • 1898: Brussels (gold medal)

After a corresponding waiting period ( ARA in June 1879), Herkomer was elected a full member of the Royal Academy of Arts on May 13, 1890 . The compulsory diploma thesis that he submitted in 1891 (the oil painting On Strike ) later earned him a professorship there.

In addition to ten memberships in British institutions, he was also appointed to six academies and artists' associations in the rest of Europe, including the Prussian Academy of the Arts in Berlin in 1885 and as a foreign member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1896 .

The city of Landsberg am Lech also honored him many times: in 1893 he became an honorary citizen of the city, in 1900 it named a street after him, in 1991 the city donated a culture prize called the “Hubert von Herkomer Prize”.


  • Watford, Watford Museum February 15 - March 10, 1982
    • David Setford, Rosemary Treble, Lee M. Edwards (Eds.): A passion for work. Sir Hubert von Herkomer, 1849–1914. Watford Borough Council, Watford 1983.
  • Watford, Watford Museum September 17th - December 10th 1983
    • David Setford: Stand to your work. Hubert Herkomer and his students. Watford Borough Council, Watford 1983.
  • Landsberg am Lech xx - August 14, 1988
    • Hartfried Neunzert (Ed.): Sir Hubert von Herkomer. For the centenary of his Landsberg motherhood. New City Museum, Landsberg am Lech 1988.
  • Landsberg am Lech July 1st - September 29th 1999
    • Hartfried Neunzert (eds.): Mansel Lewis & Hubert Herkomer. Wales, England, Bavaria. New City Museum, Landsberg am Lech 1999.
  • Landsberg am Lech, March 29 - August 31, 2014: Hubert von Herkomer. A painter prince and graphic artist. New City Museum and Town Hall Landsberg am Lech, Germany / Bushey, June 28, 2014 - January 11, 2015: Herkomer Centenary Exhibition. Bushey Museum, Bushey, Hertfordshire, England
    • Hartfried Neunzert (Ed.): Herkomer. Masterpieces in large format. Michael Imhof Verlag, Petersberg 2014, ISBN 978-3-7319-0044-3 .


Web links

Commons : Hubert von Herkomer  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, pp. 15-19.
  2. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, p. 26 f.
  3. As he himself suspects: Because his studies at the Munich Academy were already planned at that time. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, p. 39.
  4. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, p. 51. The Herkomerplatz in Munich- Bogenhausen is a reminder of his stay .
  5. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, p. 60.
  6. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, p. 68.
  7. ↑ With regard to these watercolors, painted in Walker's style, Herkomer later remarked that his designs for woodcuts for the same subjects were far better because they were more independent. See for example this one. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, p. 65; 70.
  8. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, p. 81.
  9. Herkomer explains that he painted the portrait of his friend Forbes in order not to be a "painter of old men" (after The Last Muster and a single portrait commission, namely in 1879 by the old dean of King's College, Cambridge, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe ) To be labeled after he decided in 1881 to devote himself largely to portraiture. During the next decade or so, portrait painting experienced a boom in England, and at that time few portraitists were overemployed. During the work on Forbes' portrait, other similar commissions came. The Lady in White, on the other hand, was soon required to refute that Herkomer could not paint beautiful women. The picture was taken the same year he happily married Lulu. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, pp. 118 f., 129 f., 133 ff.
  10. An English law at that time forbade widowers from marrying their sisters-in-law. From this time until his death, Herkomer had both citizenships. S. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 2. Macmillan, London 1911, p. 22 ff.
  11. See the list with a selection of them.
  12. ^ The Modernist Journals Project ;
    Doris Jones-Baker: Hertfordshire in History. Papers Presented to Lionel Munby . University of Hertfordshire Press, Hatfield 2004, ISBN 978-0-9542189-4-2 , pp. 240 ff.
  13. ^ R. Lane Poole: Catalog of Portraits in the possession of the University, Colleges, City, and County of Oxford. Volume 3, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1925, p. 312 ( Text Archive - Internet Archive );
    Entry in Oxford Portraits .
  14. The construction of new wooden houses for such purposes had been prohibited by law for some time, so the buildings were of no interest to investors. See Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, pp. and so on. My School and my Gospel. London 1908, pp.?.
  15. That same year [1880] the foundations were put in, and the structure rose to some six feet above the ground. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, pp. 123 f.
  16. Herkomer's first printed drawing, cut into wood by Dalziel and published with a maudlin story invented for it in the illustrated Good Words for the Young for young people .
  17. It was promptly mistaken for Walker at the exhibition at the academy. Herkomer writes that the confusion he had overheard did not flatter himself, but Walker welcomed the plagiarism even less. Hubert von Herkomer: The Herkomers. Volume 1. Macmillan, London 1910, p. 103.
  18. ^ Hubert von Herkomer: The Pictorial Music-Play: An Idyl , In: The Magazine of Art July 1889, pp. 316-324; Alice Corkan: Professor Herkomer's Pictorial Music-Play. In: The Scottish Art Review. 2, July 1889, pp. 41-45. See this Sound for details .
  19. This article was known to Vincent van Gogh , who then idealized Herkomer as a model and later even considered studying with him. Quoted from Alexander Roob: Van Gogh's Favorites I, Hubert Herkomer and the School of English Social Realism . 2007.
  20. a b Quoted by Uta Grund: Between the arts. Edward Gordon Craig and the picture theater around 1900. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 978-3-05-003721-9 , p. 243.
  21. ^ Pour le Mérite: Hubertus von Herkomer
  22. ^ Elisabeth Meixner:  Herkomer, Sir Hubert von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 8, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1969, ISBN 3-428-00189-3 , p. 623 f. ( Digitized version ).
  23. ^ Herkomer's résumé on the Tate Gallery in London
  24. It should be emphasized that Herkomer, not a member of the academy, was only allowed to submit two oil paintings; H. less than its competitors.
  25. Entry in the member database .
  26. ^ Alfred L. Baldry: Hubert von Herkomer RA A study and a biography. George Bell and Sons, London 1901, p. 47.