Herbert, John Rogers (DNB00)
|←Herbert, Henry William||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 26
Herbert, John Rogers
HERBERT, JOHN ROGERS (1810–1890), portrait and historical painter, was born on 23 Jan. 1810 at Maldon in Essex, where his father was a controller of customs. He came to London in 1826, and was admitted a student of the Royal Academy, where in 1830 appeared his first exhibited picture, a ‘Portrait of a Country Boy.’ He continued for some years to paint portraits for a livelihood, but varied his work by designing book illustrations and painting romantic and ideal subjects, which were often suggested by the poetry of Byron. The first of these to attract attention was ‘The Appointed Hour,’ a picture representing a Venetian lover lying assassinated at the foot of a staircase which his mistress is hastening to descend. It was exhibited at the British Institution in 1834, and engraved by John C. Bromley, and again by Charles Rolls for the ‘Keepsake’ of 1836. This success induced Herbert to visit Italy, in order to gather materials for fresh subjects. In 1836 he sent to the Royal Academy ‘Captives detained for Ransom by Condottieri:’ in 1837, ‘Desdemona interceding for Cassio;’ and in 1838, to the British Institution, ‘Haidee,’ ‘The Elopement of Bianca Capello,’ and ‘The Signal,’ engraved, together with ‘The Lady Ida,’ by Lumb Stocks for the ‘Keepsake’ of 1841. ‘The Brides of Venice’ appeared at the Royal Academy in 1839, and this was followed in 1840 by ‘Boar-hunters refreshed at St. Augustine's Monastery, Canterbury.’ About the same time he became a convert to the church of Rome, chiefly through the influence of Augustus Welby Pugin [q. v.], whose portrait he afterwards painted. He exhibited at the Academy in 1841 ‘Pirates of Istria bearing oft the Brides of Venice from the Cathedral of Olivolo,’ engraved with other subjects in Roscoe's ‘Legends of Venice’ (London, 1841, 4to), but henceforward his works were more frequently of a religious character, and often imbued with the reverent spirit of mediaeval art.
Herbert was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1841, and on the formation of the government school of design at Somerset House in the same year he was appointed one of the masters. In 1842 his contributions to the Academy were ‘The First Introduction of Christianity into Britain’ and a portrait of Cardinal Wiseman; in 1843, ‘Christ and the Woman of Samaria,’ engraved by Samuel Bellin; and in 1844, ‘Sir Thomas More and his Daughter observing from the Prison Window the Monks going to Execution,’ engraved by John Outrim, and ‘The Acquittal of the Seven Bishops,’ engraved by S. W. Reynolds, but painted some years earlier. In 1846 Herbert became a royal academician, and presented as his diploma work ‘St. Gregory the Great teaching the Roman Boys to sing the Chant which has received his Name,’ exhibited the year before. In 1847 he sent to the Academy ‘Our Saviour subject to his Parents at Nazareth,’ and in 1848 ‘St. John the Baptist reproving Herod.’ About this time he painted also the ‘Assertion of Liberty of Conscience by the Independents in the Westminster Assembly of Divines, 1644,’ engraved by S. Bellin. For the decoration of the houses of parliament Herbert was commissioned to paint in fresco in the poets' hall ‘King Lear disinheriting Cordelia,’ a replica of which in oil was exhibited at the Academy in 1849, and again at the Royal Jubilee exhibition at Manchester in 1887. To him was also assigned the decoration of the peers' robing room, for which he painted a series of nine subjects illustrative of ‘Human Justice.’ They represent ‘Man's Fall’ and ‘Man's Condemnation to Labour,’ ‘The Judgment of Solomon,’ ‘The Visit of the Queen of Sheba,’ ‘The Building of the Temple,’ ‘The Judgment of Daniel,’ ‘Daniel in the Lions' Den,’ ‘The Vision of Daniel,’ and' Moses bringing the Tables of the Law.’ The ‘Moses’ was executed in the waterglass process, and was in progress fourteen years. It is a work of great merit, and marks the culminating point of the artist's career. The principal works which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in later years were a portrait of Horace Vernet in 1855; ‘The Virgin Mary,’ painted for Queen Victoria, in 1860; ‘Laborare est Orare,’ in 1862; ‘Judith,’ in 1863; ‘The Sower of Good Seed,’ in 1865; ‘St. Edmund, King of East Anglia, on the Morning of his last Battle with the Danes,’ in 1867: ‘The Valley of Moses in the Desert of Sinai,’ in 1868; ‘The Bay of Salamis,’ in 1869; ‘All that's Bright must Fade,’ in 1871; ‘St. Mary Magdalene at the Foot of the Cross,’ in 1873; and ‘The Adoration of the Magi,’ in 1874. His subsequent works gradually grew so weak as to give rise to frequent protests against the positions assigned to them on the walls of the Royal Academy. Herbert retired from the rank of academician in 1886, but continued to exhibit till 1889. He died at The Chimes, Kilburn, London, on 17 March 1890, and his remains were deposited in the catacombs of St. Mary's catholic cemetery at Kensal Green.
Herbert's picture of ‘Sir Thomas More and his Daughter’ is in the Vernon collection in the National Gallery.
Of Herbert's sons, Arthur John (1834-1856) exhibited in 1855 at the Academy ‘Don Quixote's first impulse to lead the life of a knight-errant,’ and in 1856 ‘Philip IV of Spain knighting Velasquez.’ He died of fever in Auvergne 18 Sept. 1856. Cyril Wiseman, another son, is separately noticed.[Times, 20 March 1890; Athenæum, 1890, i. 377; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists of the English School, p. 209; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy of Arts, 1862, ii. 179-81; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1830-89 ; British Institution Exhibition Catalogues (Living Artists), 1832-43.]