Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Art Fund Gift of Brian Hatton Portrait to the Hereford Museum

Brian Hatton, 'Self Portrait' c.1901, chalk on paper.
Hereford Museum has recently acquired an important self portrait by local artist Brian Hatton (1886-1916).The work has been generously donated to the museum by a relative of the artist, Dr. Geoffrey Vevers, through the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for works of art. It has just gone on display at the museum.

Dr. Vevers is related to Brian Hatton through his great grandmother, who was Brian’s Aunt Ada Vevers, herself an amateur artist. Ada’s son Geoffrey grew up alongside Brian in Hereford. As young men the two cousins shared accommodation together in London before World War I.

The Art Fund helps museums and galleries across the UK to acquire new works for their collections in different ways: by giving grants towards buying works, by fundraising and levering additional support, and by providing an expert service enabling individuals to give or bequeath works to public collections.

Dr. Vevers acquire the portrait in 2008. He has chosen to gift it through the Art Fund, which has strict terms and conditions on how gifted artworks should be conserved and displayed. Works given through the Art Fund are safeguarded in perpetuity and remain accessible to the public.

Dr Geoffrey Vevers said: “The collection of Brian Hatton's works held in Hereford deserves to be made more widely available. Towards this aim images are now available on the website where it will be noted that there is no self portrait of the artist in his teens. This picture fills that gap and is therefore an appropriate addition to the collection.”

The portrait depicts Brian Hatton at the age of about 14 years old. At this time Brian had already received some recognition of his talent. He had won medals for drawings he submitted to the Royal Drawing Society, which was a national competition for budding artists. As a result of his success there, he had come to the attention of G.F. Watts, the renowned Victorian artist. Watts continued to take an interest in Brian’s artistic life and corresponded with his mother discussing his training as an artist.

Brian also came into contact with the Royal family with his success at the Royal Drawing Society. In 1898 at the age of ten he won the Gold Star for the drawings he submitted in the competition which was open to artists up to the age of 20. Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter presented the medal, which she redesigned on this occasion, thinking the original to be of poor design.

In spite of his success Brian remained modest about his abilities as a boy. His great interests were landscapes, often including farm labourers, animals (especially horses) which he found in the countryside around Warham and Breinton, near his home in Broomy Hill. As a young man he was beginning to establish his career as a portrait painter, which was more lucrative work, before the untimely interruption of the War.

The Hereford Museum holds a substantial body of work by Hatton, representing all stages of his life; from his boyhood sketches, to his first portrait commissions. It is an invaluable record of a developing talent and the life of young man who, tragically, was killed in action during the First World War. Brian lost his life on 23 April, Easter Sunday, 1916, at Oghratina in Egypt.

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