— News Henk Ngantung discovered to be the painter of Brigadier John Mellsop’s portrait

1946, oil on canvas by Henk Ngantung (1921–1991)

Brigadier John Mellsop (1907–1980), 1946, oil on canvas by Henk Ngantung (1921–1991)

This portrait of Brigadier John Mellsop (1907–1980) has an illegible signature, which was interpreted as ‘Hank M. Antony’, possibly an American name. Following the discussion and enquiries of Art UK users, it was found that the portrait was in fact painted by Henk Ngantung, an Indonesian painter more formally known as Hendrik Hermanus Joel Ngantung (1921–1991).

Using The British Occupation of Indonesia 19451946, Art Detective users Andrew Chamberlain, Kieran Owens and Osmond Bullock decided that the Dutch East Indies, specifically Jakarta, was likely where the painting was made.

Kieran Owens shared a link to four other paintings by Henk Ngantung, with signatures very like the one on the portrait of Brigadier John Mellsop. Owens also provided evidence from a search on Abe Books that Ngantung was known to paint members of the Indonesian delegation and Dutch officials. This gives conclusive proof that Henk Nguantung was in the right place at the right time to have painted Brigadier Mellsop in 1946.

The research done here convinced Art UK and the National Army Museum that this portrait was in fact painted by Henk Ngantung (1921–1991). The Art UK and collection database records have been updated accordingly.

Honor Greig, Art UK volunteer