An Artist's Reminiscences

Rudolf Wilhelm Augustus Lehmann (1819-1905) was a portrait and genre painter. German by birth, he became a British citizen and lived in London from 1866. His brother Frederic Lehmann was a close and lifelong friend of Wilkie Collins and Rudolf’s wife Amelia was the sister of Frederic’s wife Nina, with whom Wilkie was also very close. Rudolf's portrait of Wilkie - above - is now in the National Portrait Gallery. His name is often written with the anglicized spelling ‘Rudolph’. His book An Artist’s Reminiscences (1894) is a mixture of a chronological biography and short accounts of people he knew.

Wilkie Collins

I made Wilkie Collins’s acquaintance in the house of my younger brother Frederic, whose intimate friend he was. I painted him, a commission from my brother, in 1880. Being the son of a celebrated Royal Academician, he proved a most patient sitter. He had a full beard, and always wore spectacles. A peculiarity of his otherwise regular features was a swelling of the frontal bone, considerably protruding on the right side of his spacious forehead.

In his moments of good health he used to be a ready, amiable talker, but unfortunately they were rare. He had found laudanum most efficacious in soothing his excruciating nervous pains. Like the tyrant of old who, to make himself proof against being poisoned, swallowed a daily increased portion of poison, Wilkie had gradually brought himself, not only to be able, but absolutely to require, a daily quantity of laudanum a quarter of which would have been sufficient to kill any ordinary person. Nothing under a tablespoonful would do for his night’s rest. When his provision had run short in Switzerland, my brother, his travelling companion, had to procure the requisite quantity from four different chemists, as they were by law prohibited from selling above a limited amount at a time.

Wilkie Collins was inclined to hold rather peculiar opinions; he would, for instance, insist on the principle that nothing that the palate relished could be hurtful to the system, and that nothing that the palate disliked could be wholesome. I fear that in his case the result did not bear out these convenient rules.

From An Artist’s Reminiscences by Rudolf Lehmann, London 1894 pp232-234

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