A Book of British Etching: From Francis Barlow to Francis Seymour Haden

By Walter Shaw Sparrow | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
HERKOMER AND WHISTLER

I

WOULD it have been a good lark to tell Whistler that he and Herkomer had a good many turns of mind in common? He would have winced indignantly, as he wanted to be unique; but would he have failed to see that a fluke of temperamental kinship was certainly active? That Herkomer, a thorough Bavarian, should have been like Whistler, who represented in art the adaptive confidence and subtlety of America's enterprise, was a great surprise to all who noticed several points of resemblance.

They were equally versatile, yet they failed to get from their æsthetic fervour, with its variations of appeal, enough concentration and enjoyment to keep them silent, as J. S. Sargent liked to be. They talked and they wrote and lectured, though these outlets for their energy occupied too much time and provoked envy, dislike, and controversy. It was not their business in life to put enterprise into words.

Though equally frank when they talked and wrote, Herkomer never tried to be unfriendly, whereas Whistler would entertain himself by giving pain, a literary hornet with many differing stings. To a friend of his and mine, the late Frederick Keppel, who had done nothing to offend him, he sent a letter of attack after a night of patient effort, striving all the time to put venom into neatly turned phrases. Herkomer never stooped to the level of this folly; his vanity had neither pettiness nor malice. Indeed, he longed to be as a cheery captain of a mixed school to every boy or girl who wanted to be head-over-heels in love with pigments and brushes, etching-needles and acid baths, burins, pencils, pastels,

-38-

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