The Right Hon. Stephen Lushington
W. Holman Hunt
Inscribed with monograph and "1862"
Chalk on paper
Source: Pre-Raphaelitism, II, 220
See below for Hunt's descripton of his sitter and the story how the drawing came about.
Scanned image and text by George P. Landow
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The story behind the portrait
My friend, Mr. Vernon Lushington, at this' time invited me to paint the full-size portrait of his father, the Rt. Hon. Stephen Lushington; therefore I stayed with the family at Ockham to paint it. Sitting down to my first dinner in the house, one of the sons asked me what line I took on the question of the war between North and South in America.
"I had better confess at once that I am on the unpopular side, I must avow that all the arguments I hear for the Southern cause have no weight with me," I said.
"Well done! " he exclaimed, "we are all Northerners here."
Scarcely any circle I had met up to then had received my confession of faith on this question so harmoniously. I felt it was wise to make a study in chalk of the very interesting head of the great Judge before beginning the portrait in oil. The old gentleman was stirred up to extraordinary vivacity when in conversation, and the expression thus aroused was that best known to his friends. When silent, his visage settled into a mask, almost grim ; but the fact that this aspect was unknown to society made me feel it must be avoided, the difficulty was that in the mobility of his features it was almost impossible to find any phase between the two extremes that could give the interest of the charming old Judge's character. When he saw that his listener was absorbed in his stories, he poured out a succession of wonderful memories, reaching back to before the last decade of the preceding century; he was then eighty-two years of age. He told how he had once, when back from Eton, gone to Drury Lane or Covent Garden, he could not be certain which. At the end of the first act the Manager appeared before the curtain. "Ladies and Gentlemen," he said in tremulous voice, "it is our intention as usual to proceed with the performance of the piece on the boards if it be according to your pleasure, but it is my duty to tell you that sad news has just arrived from France—it is, that the French people have murdered their King. We will obey your commands." No response was made, but every one in the theatre arose, took his hat and coat in silence, and in a few minutes the building was empty. Scores of memories he recounted, that made one regret that the fashion of storytelling was ceasing in society. He had once been in company with Sir Joshua Reynolds, but had not known it at the time. Of Napoleon Bonaparte he had several social reminiscences. In his turn he was also an excellent listener, and applauded a good point with clapping hands. . . .
When I had completed the chalk drawing, I invited the daughters to see it. They were full of admiration, but I could see there was some reserve in their minds, and when I pressed them to be quite frank, Miss Lushington innocently said, "Why, you've made papa with wrinkles." To her and the family these marks of age had come so peacefully that they did not exist. [I, 219-22]
William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1905.
W. Holman Hunt
Last modified 26 October 2012