Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Painting of the Day: "The Hermit" by Charles Landseer, 1841

"The Hermit"
Charles Landseer, 1841
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Painted in 1841 by the famed Charles Landseer (1799-1879), this canvas is entitled “The Hermit.”

Given to the V&A in 1859 by John Sheepshanks, the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy the year it was painted. At that exhibition (from where the man who sold it to Sheepshanks purchased it), the painting was displayed with the following narrative poem, also called “The Hermit, which was posthumously published in 1721. It read:
Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
From youth to age a reverend hermit grew;
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well.
Remote from men, with God he passed the days,
Prayer all his business, all his pleasures praise.

David Lucas, the grandson of the famed engraver of the same name, hinted in 1925 that the model for this painting was his grandfather. The elder Lucas was known to have worked as a fortune teller at the Cremorne Gardens where he lived as something of a hermit. It was all an act, of course. Lucas wore a long dressing-gown and false beard rather like the subject of this painting. 

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