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TMA Museum Spotlight

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

JHF Bacon’s Lithograph of “Beowulf in Hrothgar’s Mead Hall”

20 December 2018 | TMA

John Henry Frederick Bacon (1865-1914) was a British painter and illustrator of history, biblical scenes, portraits, and themes of literary texts, such as the Old English poem Beowulf. He is best known for the Coronation Portrait of King George V displayed at the Palace of Westminster in London, but most celebrated for his two works, The City of London imperial volunteers return to London from South Africa on Monday 29th October 1990 and Gethsemane (1989).

He was the son of lithographer John Cardanall Bacon and showed signs of his talent at a young age, receiving formal training at the Westminster School of Art and Royal Academy of Schools (London) where later he became a recurring exhibiter from 1889 with The Village Green and Nevermore until his death (See The Connoisseur, 202-03). Bacon lived with his wife and seven children at the Pillar House in Harwell, Berkshire, known today as Oxfordshire, until his death at 48 years-old in 1914.

Among his subjects of literary texts are a series of lithographs of the Old English epic poem, Beowulf, about a young Scandinavian warrior who travels to the mead Hall, Heorot of King Hrothgar and the Danes. Beowulf earns respect from Hrothgar’s tribe for killing Grendal and the monster’s mother. The hero further kills a dragon in his old age while king in his own land and saves his people from a dragon's destruction. This Medieval poem survives in only one manuscript housed today in The British Library. Museum Spotlight focuses on the subject of “Beowulf in Hrothgar’s Mead Hall”.

Folio of the beginning of the poem, Beowulf, that begins Listen!” The poem is written in a vernacular language of the Middle Ages, Old English. The manuscript is also known by its shelf mark, Cotton Vitellius A.xv.


National Gallery Portrait, John Henry Frederick Bacon, The Coronation Ceremony of His Most Gracious Majesty King George V in Westminster Abbey. 22nd June 1911;

Royal Collection Trust, John Henry Frederick Bacon, The Coronation of King George V (1865-1936) Signed and dated 1911 Oil on canvas | 336.2 x 552.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 407572;

The Connoisseur: A Magazine for Collectors, vol 38 (1914).

How to cite this blog:

TMA staff, “TMA Museum Spotlight:JHF Bacon’s Lithograph of 'Beowulf in Hrothgar’s Mead Hall'" Teaching the Middle Ages, December 20, 2018,

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