Biography Hercules Brabazon Brabazon / Биография Геркулеса Барбазона Барбазона

Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (1821 – 1906), became financially independent in 1840 when he inherited his uncle’s fortune and took on the name Brabazon. He devoted his life to travel, the study of art both contemporary and the old masters. He was an amateur landscape and still life watercolourist, who produced rapid colourful sketches and become an original member of the New English Art Club.

‘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. 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’. (Hercules Brabazon Brabazon 1821 – 1906: His Art and Life, George Allen, London, 1912).

It was perhaps because Sargent was such a keen and proficient watercolourist that he appreciated and championed those painted by Brabazon. Together with fellow New English Art Club admirers, he encouraged the seventy-year-old to have his first solo exhibition at the Goupil Gallery, London in 1892 and Sargent wrote the introduction to the catalogue, enthusing, ‘Each sketch is a new delight of harmony, and the harmonies are innumerable and unexpected…’

h2>The painting

This painting shows Sargent’s skill in the combined innovative use of colour and form. The long thin shape of this canvas coupled with the intense dark profile shape of the body and three-quarter pose for the head creates an unusual and arresting portrait. Brief patches of light peach-coloured ground show through to the pale lavender-blue background. We can ‘feel it’ as a coloured environment that communicates the character of the sitter rather than imagining that Brabazon sat for the portrait outside.

The patchy light ground corroborates with and draws attention to the wispy grey of his sideburns and merges softly with that indeterminate fluff suggested by the dry paint touches at his Adams’s apple and on the back of his neck. Severe dark paint around his left eye socket, below his nostril, under his chin and behind his ear all work simultaneously to intensify the profile and long oval-shaped ear. He uses impasto whites to delineate the rounded clear bright pate which together with the strip of white collar bracket the most important aspect of this tender and intelligent portrait: the fellow artist’s eye, seen here literally at the top centre of the painting. It is an old man’s eye depicted as a withdrawn, experienced and private gaze.


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5,00 out of 5)

Loading...