Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Hubert von Herkomer's On Strike

Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914) was a German-born British painter. In the 1891 Royal Academy, he exhibited this painting of a worker on strike and his family. 

Hubert von Herkomer On Strike (1891) 2280 mm x 1264 mm

The painting is a monochromatic brown except for the red clothing on the baby, and the figures are life size, giving them a monumental feeling.

The winter leading up to the painting was a hard one, with severe blizzards and gale force winds that sank ships in the English channel.  Reviewers suggested that the extreme weather was reflected in this painting and in much of the rest of the exhibition. Although there had been a few worker strikes before this time, they were a lot of them in 1890-91, with major strikes of dockworkers and millworkers in Britain.

This painting doesn't try to show the challenging working conditions, but instead shows the resolution of the striker and the effect of the work stoppage on his family. According to the Royal Academy: A Chronicle: 

"Herkomer’s painting On Strike introduces a different element to the plight of workers. It is less concerned with illuminating bad conditions than in the direct action that could change them. In the Victorian era, when the work ethic was idealised as a means of stability and prosperity for the family, the withdrawal of labour was shocking to many."


Fred Bennett said...

This painting immediately brought Herkomer's "Hard Times" to mind.

CatBlogger said...

Your painting of your wife at the farmer's market entered in the Richeson Casein contest is outstanding! Did you paint it onsite asbyiu do in your YouTube videos?

James Gurney said...

Catblogger, thanks. That one is from a photo. But I shot video of the process and will share it on YouTube soon.

CatBlogger said...

Excellent, thank you!