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Portrait of Thomas Hardy

Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945), 1897, Lithograph 37.2 x 28.8cm.

William Rothenstein made this portrait of Thomas Hardy in 1897, when Hardy was fifty-seven years old and a well-established author.  In 1889 Rothenstein had begun to specialize in portraits of celebrated people. In all, his  series of contemporary portraits amounted  to 750 portrait drawings and 135 lithographs.  Sir William Rothenstein was born in Bradford in 1872, the second son of a cloth merchant who had emigrated to this country from Hanover in 1859 and become naturalized in 1867.   Rothenstein studied at Bradford Grammar School before entering the Slade School for one year (1888-9) and later moving to Paris where he where he was friendly with Whistler, Degas and Fantin-Latour.  He returned to England in 1893 and  settled  in Chelsea. He became a member of the New English Art Club and held his first London exhibition.  In 1917/18 Rothenstein was stationed  in France as an Official War Artist, recording the battle front.  Later in his career, he became more renowned as a teacher than a painter and was appointed  Principal of the Royal College of Art in 1920.  He received a Knighthood in 1931 and continued as Principal of the RCA until 1935.   The <em>Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists</em>  records that Rothenstein was conservative in his outlook on art and 'regarded pure abstraction as a 'cardinal heresy'.   However, in an article in <em>The Times</em> , written in 1967, Henry Moore, who had arrived at the RCA just as Rothenstein became Principal, recollected that Rothenstein's personal  knowledge of the French Impressionist painters had brought 'a wider more international outlook into the College.  There is no doubt that I gained much through Rothenstein being principal of the College'.  At the beginning of the Second World War, Rothenstein  worked as an unoffical war artist for the R.A.F.  He died at his Gloucestershsire home in 1945.