Thursday, May 08, 2008

May Artist #3

Sorry for the delay, guys! I was at the Woodbridge High School today, having a Q & A with the creative writing students there (hi guys if you're reading! you were great!)

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.
Von Herkomer is another artist that I'm wishing I had time to put into a full length monthly study of him, because I'd like to copy one of his works and steal some of his magic for myself.

Hubert von Herkomer - Wikipedia
Hubert von Herkomer - Art Renewal Center
Lady Lever Art Gallery
National Portrait Gallery


Susan Carlin said...

Hi Maggie,
I just was directed to your blog a few weeks ago and I had to come out of the lurker shadows to tell you how much I'm appreciating the introduction to the artists and their art... as well as enjoying yours! Herkomer. Who knew?! You did! Thank you for the introduction.

Karen Mathison Schmidt said...

Great choice, Maggie!

I'm doing a lot of study concerning color these days, and the main thing that stands out to me about Herkomer is that at first glance his colors seem to me to be subtle, very understated, calm and tranquil. But then the more I study one of his paintings the more I see increasing depth and real richness of color ... vibrant ... yeah, that's it - vibrant tranquility.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Susan -- thanks so much! I'm having a great time with this. It's definitely making me feel warmer and fuzzier about having to take the time off to finish my novel for my editor.

Karen -- yes -- depth. Herkomer seems to me the sort of art that we take for granted until we realize that it would be very difficult to replicate. He's definitely an artist I think that would be great to do a copy of to try and pinch some of his color subtleties.