Liverpool, England 1859 – London, England 1935
Self-portrait as a young man
Munich, Bavaria, Oberbayern, Germany
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas
Born in Liverpool in 1859, Lindsay Bernard Hall followed a career as an artist that would take him to Europe and eventually to Melbourne as the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria and Head of the Art School.
In 1874 at the age of fifteen, Hall began his art studies in London at the National Art Training School, later to become the Royal College of Art. From there he completed his training in Europe, attending colleges in both Antwerp and Munich. These studies gave him a solid grounding in drawing and a keen appreciation of technical mastery, which became his hallmark as an art educator.
In 1880 when Hall painted this work he was a young man of about twenty, living in Germany. While anecdotally described as shy, this portrait conveys a certain serious confidence. Hall has placed himself full-length at the centre of the canvas. This, together with the muted tones, brings to mind the formal aristocratic portraiture by artists such as Velasquez.
Hall enjoyed affluence in life and has deliberately placed himself within this grand tradition. We see him pictured as a modish young gentleman complete with the accoutrements of that station—cane, hat and fashionable shoes.
Rather than depicting himself as the artist, Hall has defined himself in terms of his social status. He has chosen an outdoor setting, which, while anonymous, conjures the image of a gentleman on his estate. This image is further substantiated by Hall’s country attire, suitable for walking or hunting. Yet despite such affectations of status and style Hall retains an air of mystery and reserve, his face in the shadows.
Bernard Hall had an uneasy relationship with his adopted homeland and this work, which travelled with him from Germany to England and from England to Australia was possibly a reminder of Europe and his youth. The painting was still a feature in his studio in 1899 when he was photographed beneath it with his wife.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray Australian portraits 1880–1960 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010