Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Tuesday 7th December - Gwenddydd and her Dog in the Garden

 Welcome back to the plague house where we are still all riddled with Covid.  In fact, it would be safer all round if you are reading this with a mask on.  Honestly, I've never been so damn ill and I'm a week in now. Ugh, revolting.  I guess it's not a surprise that I've gone looking for a beautiful image to cheer us all up...

Gwenddydd (1893-1927) and Her Dog in the Garden (1910) Hubert von Herkomer

Gwenddydd Herkomer was the youngest daughter of the artist Hubert von Herkomer, by his third wife, Maggie. Herkomer moved to England from Bavaria, and established himself as not only an important artist but also established the Herkomer School of Art in Bushey, Hertfordshire. The garden in the painting is behind the Herkomer family home, Lululaund, an incredible building reflecting the artistic nature of the owner...

Wowser. It's made from white limestone from Bavaria and the interiors were designed by Herkomer. Although the building no longer exists in entirety, there are some incredible images still around.  I mean, who wouldn't want to live here..?

Lawks. Yes please and thank you.  It's in the back garden of this huge house that we see Gwenddydd and her dog. In the census of 1911, Herkomer, his wife and daughter all live in Lululaund, and Gwenddydd has a nurse/companion, widow Henrietta Cooper who had been with the family for a while. In the picture from the year before, 16 year old Gwenddydd stands before a garlanded plinth, her black hair and white dress mirrored by her large black and white dog. Just as an aside, I was fascinated by the name Gwenddydd, and this drypoint engraving on the subject...

Gwenddydd (1891) Hubert von Herkomer

Obviously this is not our girl, but an imagining of Merlin's sister, a prophet in Welsh legend.  Herkomer must have been so taken with the subject that he called his baby daughter the same, two years later. Gwenddydd in the painting has a slightly fae look about her, with her flowing locks and white dress, out in the wilderness of Lululaund's massive garden.  The presence of a nurse/companion for the young woman made me wonder about her health, but it might have just been a member of staff, common in wealthy households (plus the Herkomer family had repeatedly suffered ill health and early deaths, so having a nurse handy is probably wise).

There is something wary in the dog's expression - both the dog and Gwenddydd are looking back towards something.  She looks lost in thought but the dog is alert.  Have they seen a friend or is it the painter's own awareness of the dangers of adulthood, outside the garden, that is reflected in this pause. I see the role of the father reflected in the dog, by his daughter's side, offering protection but ultimately it wasn't to be.  Herkomer died only a couple of years after this painting was completed, in 1914, and his wife and daughter left Lululaund for a smaller property. Gwenddydd married a gentleman called Rupfle, but died in 1927, aged only 34.  She is buried in Bavaria, after returning to her father's homeland.

See you tomorrow.


  1. Dear Kirsty
    That is a really magical portrait. The house looked pretty amazing too.
    Look after yourselves
    Best wishes

  2. How would you pronounce that, please? Gwendeed? Your posts big part of Christmas magic.

    1. That's a very good question, as my Welsh pronunciation is not great but I would go with 'Gwen-thid' but I'm hoping a Welsh speaker will correct me if I'm wrong.

      Thanks, I love bringing a bit of Christmas cheer, I'm glad you enjoy it.


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx