Just as Melanie told me she had unearthed a Herkomer drawing of Mary in the archive I came across a reference to it in the letters. On Sept 11th, 1941 Mary writes about more things she is sending to the Art Gallery including
…”a portrait in pencil – or chalk – of myself by H. Herkomer which Mr Batho asked for.”
The accession number of the portrait matches the date of the letter, so that’s definitely when it came into the collection.
At the time of sending Mary was 91 and beginning to pack up the flat in London as it was getting too much for her (she moves to Cheshire). As the portrait was made when she was 36 It must have been with her for a long time and probably hung somewhere at Coles and the London flat.
The art historians amongst you will already know that Herkomer was a well known and successful artist of his day. His work can be found in numerous UK collections including the Tate, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, where he was Professor of Painting from 1899 – 1900 and again 1906 – 1909. His most famous paintings include On Strike (1891 held at the RA) and Hard Times (1885 held at Manchester Art Gallery).
How did Herkomer end up drawing Mary? Interestingly the portrait of Mary is also dated 1885. Is that how he came to draw her, through the Art Gallery connection? Did Thomas Greg commission the portrait of his wife?
There is another possible connection in that Herkomer moved with his second wife to Bushey, Hertfordshire where he built a house about 40 miles from Coles. Might they have been part of the same social scene? Did the Gregs put in a good word for him at the Art Gallery and encourage the purchase of the painting? Or were they not involved with the gallery at this time and the whole thing is just conjecture and coincidence?
I have added the links to Herkomer for those who would like to find out more. Sharon