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Hubert Vos (1855-1935)

Portrait of a Punjabi in British India, circa 1898

Signed Hubert Vos

Oil on canvas, 74 x 59 cm


Hubert Vos was a true cosmopolitan, born in Maastricht he studied in Brussels, Rome and Paris, where he won a gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1886 and 1890. In 1887 he moved to London where he founded the society of British Portrait Painters and the Society of Pastellists together with his friend, the American-born and British-based painter, James McNeill Whistler.

In 1892 the Dutch Government appointed him as its commissioner at the World Exhibition in Chicago. There he became interested as an artist in the various racial types he
met. He painted portraits of American Indians and people from Hawaii. Around the turn of the century, he moved on to the Far East where he painted such high-placed persons as Prince Ching, Premier of China and uncle of the young Emperor, Yuan Shi Kai, the Javanese Sultan of Djokjakarta, the Emperor and the Crown Prince of Korea. But the most remarkable event of his life was the invitation he received in 1905 from the Dowager Empress

of China, Tzu Hsi, to paint her portrait in her summer palace
in Peking. Never before had a man been admitted there. The Empress, seventy-two years old, told him she wanted a perfect likeness but that she must appear no more than forty years of age. The result, a life-sized picture of the majestic, energetic woman, adorned with all the necessary imperial attributes was to her satisfaction and Vos was made commander of the Double Dragon and a mandarin. Tzu Hsi died in 1908 and with her over thousands of years of imperial rule over China.

What Charles Cordier was for sculpture Vos was for painting; an ethnographic artist.
Vos made copies of all his portraits for his own collection. The present portrait was a copy of a portrait exhibited in “Rulers of the East” in Holland House, 10 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, November 30, 1944.

Provenance: the artist’s collection and by descent to his grandson Hubert D. Vos

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