Anyway, today's May Artist is Hubert von Herkomer, a German-born artist who spent most of his career in the late nineteenth century (that's the 1800s for y'all who need number things) painting illustrations and portraits in Britain.
There is a quite a bit of Herkomer imagery available online, but a lot of it requires licensing which Maggies are too lazy to apply for, so I'll direct you to more images at the National Portrait Gallery. And of course, as always, check out the linkage at the very bottom of the post for places to find more info - like bio, where his works currently hang, and where to find prints, etc.
Okay. Onto the fun stuff. I found Hubert von Herkomer on the Museum of Fine of Art Boston's gigantic website. I forgot what I did to find him -- probably I typed in "someone to possibly come close to being worthy of the love I bear in my heart for John Singer Sargent."
Anyway. I love this dude. Not in a "sweep me off my feet and let's have arty pigmented babies" way but in a subtle, "I know how to use dark values and am a Master of Understatement and Gesture" sort of way. I can live with that. I wish I could find more of his work available online, but so far I've just not found anything to rival the John Singer Sargent gallery for any other artist.
Anyway, what do you guys think of his work? Here's what I find interesting and appealing about it:
- First and foremost, check out his lighting. Regular readers will know how I harp in almost-constant monotone about values and lighting. "Strong light from one side or the other make for the best portrait." That's what Maggies always say. I know, because I am one. Okay. With that in mind, take another look at his lighting. Yeah. He's got that understated, non-directional light thing (no strong shadows) going on and he pulls it off. Yes, I know you guys can show me a bunch of French guys who technically pulled it off in some distant century, but I've not liked any of them. More on why I like Herkomer's lighting below.
- Because he uses value patterns in an interesting and thoughtful way, even without strong lighting. See the white dresses everywhere? And the pale faces and dark backgrounds? The shapes are interesting without needing strong shadows.
- And check out his autumnal/ evening palette, perfectly in accordance with his nondirectional light. Lovely, warm, quiet, subtle. Like evening just after the sun has gone behind the trees.
- Finally, I love his faces. This is where I especially recommend you check out the National Portrait Gallery's link -- he invests every face with such character, without having them busting out in a smile. I feel like I've actually run into these people, and they've given me a wry smile because my skirt's too short, and I now know something about them.
Hubert von Herkomer - Wikipedia
Hubert von Herkomer - Art Renewal Center
Lady Lever Art Gallery
National Portrait Gallery