Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Brabazon, Hercules Brabazon
BRABAZON, HERCULES BRABAZON (1821–1906), painter, born in Paris on 27 Nov. 1821, was younger son of Hercules Sharpe, of Blackballs, Durham, and of Oaklands, Battle, Sussex. His mother was Ann, daughter of Sir Anthony Brabazon, first baronet, of New Park, co. Mayo; Sir Capel Molyneux, fourth baronet, was her uncle. His childhood was passed at Demons, Northiam, and he was educated first at Dr. Hooker's private school. From 1835 to 1837 he was at Harrow, and after pursuing his education abroad, mostly at Geneva, proceeded in 1840 to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1844 and M.A. in 1848. In 1847 he succeeded his elder brother, William, in the Brabazon estates, Ballinasloe, co. Galway and Roscommon, and Brabazon Park, co. Mayo, and, under the will of his mother's brother, Sir William John Brabazon, second baronet (d. 24 Oct. 1840), took the surname of Brabazon. On the death of his father in 1858 he inherited the Sussex property at Oaklands.
From 1844 to 1847 Brabazon studied art in Rome. At a later period he received some lessons in painting from J. H. D'Egville and from Alfred Fripp, to whom he attributed much of his facility in handling colour. His chief training, however, was acquired from his practice of copying water-colours by the earlier masters of the British school and from the habit, continued throughout his life, of making rapid colour notes, transcripts into his own language rather than copies, of his favourite paintings in public and private collections by Velasquez, Turner, Rembrandt, Hals, Guardi, Tintoretto, Watteau, Delacroix, and other artists. His earlier and careful sketches from nature show the influence of Cox, De Wint, and Muller, and sometimes of Ruskin, with whom he travelled and painted in France; but as he gained in confidence and colour sense, he worked more and more in the manner of Turner's later sketches, making a free use of body colour. He was a keen traveller, and from frequent tours in Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Egypt, and from a visit to India in 1876, brought back stores of sketches in which he aimed always at freshness of impression, handling his colour with directness and with an entire avoidance of elaboration.
Brabazon always set a high value on his own work, but it was not till he reached the age of seventy that he was induced to exhibit or sell his drawings. In November 1891 he was elected a member of the New English Art Club, and from that year till his death was a constant exhibitor. His work appeared also at the exhibitions of the Pastel Society and the International Society. In December 1892 he yielded to Mr. J. S. Sargent's persuasion, and held an exhibition of his paintings at the Goupil Gallery. In a prefatory note to the catalogue Mr. Sargent said 'The gift of colour, together with an exquisite sensitiveness to impressions of Nature, has here been the constant incentive, and the immunity from "picture making" has gone far to keep perception delicate and execution convincing.'
Brabazon was also an ardent pianist, with a rare facility for reading and rendering the most difficult music at sight. In his village of Sedlescombe (to the north of Hastings) he was a model landlord, and to his friends in private life was unfailing in deeds of kindness and goodwill. During his last two years he was confined to his rooms at Oaklands, where he died, unmarried, on 14 May 1906. He was buried in Sedlescombe churchyard. Examples of his water-colours are in the Tate Gallery, the British Museum, the public galleries at Dublin and Edinburgh, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Memorial exhibitions of his work were held at the Goupil Gallery in November 1906 and at the Hastings Museum in February 1907, the latter exhibition being under the auspices of the Hastings and St. Leonards Museum Association, of which Brabazon was an active vice-president for fifteen years.
Brabazon's folios, containing over two thousand drawings, were bequeathed to his niece, Mrs. Harvey Brabazon Combe, who has converted an old tithebarn at Sedlescombe into a Brabazon Gallery open daily to the public. An oil portrait of Brabazon and a charcoal sketch of his head, both by Mr. J. S. Sargent, R.A., are in the possession of Mr. Harvey Combe.
[Goupil Gall. Exhib. Cat. (with prefatory note by J. S. Sargent, R.A.), 1892; Goupil Gall. Memorial Exhib. (with an essay by F. Wedmore), 1900 ; biographical notice in Cat. of Nat. Gall, of Brit. Art; The Studio, xxxv. 95, 1905; Art Journal, 1906, pp. 58, 209 ; Sussex Daily News (memorial notice by Lord Brassey), 1 June 1906; Whitechapel Art Gall. Exhib. Cat. 1908; Notes on the Life of H. B. Brabazon, by Mrs. H. B. Combo (Handbook to the Brabazon Gallery, Sedlescombe) ; Hastings and St. Leonards Observer, 22 April 1911 (Lecture on Brabazon to the East Sussex Art Club, by T. Parkin) ; private information from Mrs. Harvey Combe and from Mr. C. Lewis Hind, author of a volume on Brabazon to be published in 1912.]