Herbert James DRAPER

London 1864 - London 1920


Herbert Draper entered the Royal Academy Schools in London in 1885, winning a silver medal for life drawing the following year. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887, and in 1888 won a travelling scholarship which allowed him to spend time in Paris, where he completed his studies at the Académie Julian under Jules-Joseph Lefebvre and Gustave Boulanger. In 1889, Draper won the Royal Academy Gold Medal and another scholarship, and spent much of 1890 travelling around Europe, visiting Spain and Italy. On his return to England, Draper began working as a painter and illustrator, with a particular penchant for mythological subjects.

Although Draper was never an associate or member of the Royal Academy, despite being proposed several times, he exhibited regularly at the Academy, showing large narrative paintings of Classical or romantic themes. In 1894 his painting The Sea Maiden attracted considerable attention and praise, while three years later his painting The Foam Sprite was acquired by a museum in Australia. A painting of The Lament for Icarus, painted in 1898, won the gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, and was later acquired by the Tate Gallery. Other museums to purchase paintings by the artist included the Manchester City Art Gallery and galleries in Bradford and Preston. Draper also was responsible for the monumental ceiling decoration of the Drapers’ Hall in the City of London, a commission received in 1901 on the recommendation of Sir Edward Poynter. In later years Draper produced more portraits, for which he became quite well known. He died, somewhat in obscurity, in 1920, at the age of fifty-seven.

As a draughtsman, Draper worked in a manner akin to that of most Victorian artists, such as his friend Lord Leighton, producing individual figure studies in chalk for each of his paintings. Most of his drawings are preparatory studies for paintings, and he seems to have only rarely made drawings for their own sake. In 1904 an exhibition of sixty-five of his drawings and oil sketches was held at the Leicester Galleries in London.