Sunday, February 1, 2009

Herbert James Draper

Despite the name of this blog there hasnt been a whole lot of art here so it was high time I changed that! During the last 5 years or so i have become keenly interested in the work of the Victorian era artists, more specifically from the last half of the 19th century. So here are a few pics of some of the work of Herbert James Draper (1863-1920) one of the last of the Victorian Classicists.

One of Draper's most impressive and dramatic works "The Mountain Mists". Many at the time thought his sirens rivaled that of his good friend John William Waterhouse. The whereabouts of this painting were unknown for over 70 years and then in 2000 it resurfaced and was bought by a private collector for a record (for a Draper) 800,000 pounds. (Of which i have no idea what that translates to into US dollars! Anyone know???)

A beautifully rendered study for the left figure in "The Mountain Mists". Draper's working method was very similar to that of his mentor Fredrick Leighton in that many chalk studies for figures and drapery were done as well as small oil sketches working out every aspect of the piece before work begins on the final canvas. Often the oil sketches are nearly as beautiful as the finished piece!

"Flying Fish", first exhibited in 1910

Chalk study for the figure in "Flying Fish".

"Sea Melodies" exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1904. Draper loved painting the water, especially with naked lovelies flitting about!

Another sensual siren by the sea, "Calypsos Isle"

Draper's paintings sometimes had a sense of fun and looseness of technique that was quite uncommon among the classicists. This painting "The Foam Sprite" is probably the best example of that. Draper continued to paint sea sirens and classical subjects right to the end despite the fact that the modern movement, i. e. the various "isms", and the great war had all but obliterated any interest in them.

Another of Draper's exquisite chalk figure studies. While studying at the St John's Wood life classes his school was often paid visits by Leighton (who was then president of the Royal Academy), Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Edward Poynter. All of these men would have a major influence on young Draper's work and working methods. A few more of his marvelous studies below.

The Gates of Dawn", possibly Draper's masterpiece. The model used for the figure of Aurora was Florence "Florrie" Bird who posed often for Draper. In 2001 the Tate Gallery included this among 3 of Drapers works in its exhibition devoted to the Victorian nude. After nearly a century in obscurity, his work is finally being rediscovered and appreciated once again! Anyway, one can only imagine how incredible it must be to be able to experience this painting in person!


J.B. said...

1.2 million and change at the 2000 exchange rate, I believe. Not too shabby.

Smurfswacker said...

Draper is fantastic, and I thank you for posting these reproductions.

Speaking of reproductions, I saw an art gallery on Yessy which was selling some artist's copies of Draper's paintings (they were good but they weren't Draper)...for thirty thousand dollars each!