|The Temptation of Sir Percival Arthur Hacker|
|Christabel Cockerell (1900)|
|The Cloister or The World (1886)|
Right, a little background on Arthur Hacker: His father was an animal engraver and his mother was the daughter of an attorney. They lived a rather nice comfortable life in St Pancras, the Hampstead areas of London. Arthur had a brother Sidney, who ended up being coroner for Devon, and a sister Adeline, who remained home and unmarried until both of her parents had passed away (both at quite a ripe old age). Just after his father died, Arthur painted this rather touching portrait of his mother...
|Portrait of the Artist's Mother (Sophia Hacker) (1907)|
|Sir Frank Short (1918)|
This rather lovely image of the engineer and engraver Frank Short tells you so much about the subject. He looks industrious but with a smile, a warm humour and an enthusiastic love of his work. I think he is smiling under that impressive mustache.
|Charlotte A. Ferguson of Largham, Donor of Victory Park|
This reminds me of the portrait of Annie Russell-Cotes (of the Art Gallery fame), and no doubt countless other images of wealthy women of the late Victorian period, but there is something eminently tactile about that boa of fur and the great bundle of bows on the front of her dress. It treads a very fine line between respectable and glam, which is nice to see in a woman of a certain age. She looks jolly.
Arthur Hacker (1858-1919) was a well-known painter of moderate success, a classicist with a strong vein in genre and fantasy. His scenes of everyday life remind me of the Cornish fishing scenes of Holl but without the utter doom...
|The Fisherman's Wife|
We know her husband's line of work thanks to the tangle of nets and baskets behind her, but what is the message of the piece? She looks at her baby with a mixed expression, both blissful and fearful. What clues do we have? There is a clock, there are daffodils, so are we looking at time running out? The daffodils are to do with Spring and life, but a number of them have been left from the bowl. I'm putting money on a fishing accident and a number of sailors lost from their boat. Mind you, I don't always look on the bright side...
Again, a clock ticks just out of shot, symbolising time. I think the little girl and the old woman are the same person. Time has ticked on and the little girl who used to think sewing was fun has now gone blind and can no longer thread her needle and will starve, which is a bit 'difficult'.
I think we probably know Hacker for his religious and legend subjects, like lovely Sir Percival. It was what he was primarily known for at the time, probably because of the magnificence of some of these...
|By the Waters of Babylon|
|Pelagia and Philammon (1887)|
The first of the religious images should be familiar to you as the subject of a Boney M song. The second is from a now-obscure Charles Kingsley novel Hypatia and shows the monk Philammon giving the holy sacrament to his nudey sister in the desert. That's alright then, nothing strange there.
The lush image of Daphne goes in my collection of fictional Amos Roselli paintings (from The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry). The picture of Persephone is a bit overwrought but seems rather more up-beat than Rossetti's take on the subject.
Yes, Hacker could be dismissed at times as being a painter of pretty girls with pink bits, but he is much more than that. He can also be a painter of extreme oddness...
|Vale or Farewell|
So many questions! Who is going where? Is the figure on the left leading the one on the right, is she leaving her or are they both going off but in separate directions? Is one of them death? Is one of them dead? It has a sepia-silence about it, not telling the viewer anything other than this is a painting about saying goodbye.
So does the title refer to the sound of bees, filling up the flowers that surround the beautifully dressed young woman? Or is she the drone? A drone is a bee that doesn't 'work', just exists for breeding purposes, so maybe he is making a comment on the position of the woman whose posture echoes the flowers.
|Imprisoned Spring (1911)|
It's not hard to fall in love with Arthur Hacker, his art is so beautiful and, at its best, celebrates the beauty of this world and a world beyond ours. He paints women with skin like pearly shells and fabric that could slide through your fingers like silk. His muse is often unknowable; who can tell what the woman in The Drone is thinking, and what is happening in Vale or Farewell? Sometimes it is not a subject he gives us, just a mood, a feeling that is unsettled. This is at odds with his traditional genre images, but even then he gives us unfinished stories, no guarantee of a happy ending. His glory exists in a canvas of uncertainty, but the beauty will always remain true.
|Musicienne du Silence|