Herbert James Draper

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Herbert James Draper

English , Victorian Neoclassical painter

Born 1863 - Died 1920

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Herbert James Draper was born in London. He was educated at Bruce Castle before moving to the Royal Academy Schools, where he was awarded a gold medal and a travelling scholarship in 1889. In 1890 he travelled throughout Europe, spending time in Paris and Rome. Draper settled in London in 1891, and at about this time married Ida Williams' daughter of a magistrate - they had one daughter. He specialised in paintings depicting mythological events, not dissimilar to the subjects which attracted J. W. Waterhouse. His picture The Lament for Icarus, was purchased by the Chantry Bequest in 1898. In 1900 Draper was awarded a gold medal at The International Exhibition in Paris for Icarus. He exhibited at the RA each year from 1887 until shortly before his death. Draper also had a lucrative society portrait painting practice, his aristocratic sitters including the Duchess of Abercorn. Another area of activity was decorative work including, appropriately, the ceiling of the Drapers Hall.

Draper did not become even an ARA, which I find somewhat surprising, given his long association with the RA, and the quality of his work. He was though, a member of The Royal British Colonial Society, whose President for a number of years was Thomas Gotch. Draper’s paintings are in public galleries throughout Britain, South Africa, and Australia. In the mythological subject area his paintings include, as well as Lament for Icarus, Ulysses and the Sirens, The Kelpie, and The Vintage Morn. Herbert Draper had, in his lifetime, a considerable reputation, which declined rapidly, probably before his death. It is difficult to find much information about Draper the man, though it is a matter of record he attended the funeral of Waterhouse, his close neighbour, in 1917. His residence in St John’s Wood attests to his material success.

The Antique Collectors Club tell me that they will be publishing an art monograph about Draper in mid 2002. I look forward to it with interest. I will also be carrying out further research of my own.

  • >Various, including The Last Romantics, published by Lund Humphries.
  • This book is quite simply a must have for any 19th century enthusiast of English art. It is well illustrated and written, and the short biographies of the artists are quite simply wonderful, and give more accurate information than many longer articles. A book I return to again and again. The strongest possible recommendation.

    Our thanks go to Paul Ripley who gave his kind permission to reprint this article from his website, Victorian Art in Britain.


    member of

    • Royal British Colonial Society

    Page 1 of 2

    15 Abbey Road
    St. John's Wood N.W.8

    May 3/ 1918

    Dear Mr. Roche
    Thank you for your letter which I found on my return home. I am just off to the sea now that the Academy work is all finished. So please accept a hasty line.
    I am not speaking without thought when I say that I do not think the book would prove of value to me; I rarely paint a subject picture now, as in recent years I have leaned more toward reality & portraiture etc., but I thank you very much and consider it a compliment that you should have thought of me in connection with the subjects for painting the book suggests to you.

    You will forgive, I am sure, a hasty note under the circumstances I have mentioned.

    Yours sincerely

    Herbert Draper RA

    Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

    Page 2 of 2

    Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

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