Completed Dress and Textiles, London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 20th C 41 Any information about this 'Portrait of an Unknown Rheumatologist'?

Portrait of an Unknown Rheumatologist
Topic: Artist

We know hardly anything about this oil painting. It is said to be of a rheumatologist, presumably a consultant at the Royal Free Hospital or possibly one of its associate hospitals.

From the clothes we have guessed that it is Edwardian or perhaps from just after WW1.

There is one other tiny fact, that on the back is a remover's label for Biddick & Co.

Can anyone contribute any more information?

Completed, Outcome

Alice Read,

The title has been amended to 'Charles Brehmer Heald (1882–1974), Consultant Physician in Physical Medicine at the Royal Free Hospital', the execution date to 'c.1920–1925' and a description:

'The sitter had the distinction of serving as a medical officer in all three branches of the armed forces during the First World War. After the war he took a keen interest in electrotherapeutics and played a leading role in the development of physical medicine.

His papers include a typescript copy of his unpublished autobiography recounting his colourful wartime experiences, scrapbooks, printed matter, correspondence and personal papers.

There are five records at the National Maritime Museum of papers donated to them by Heald in 1957 relating to his First World War experience, including letters written to him by his wife and family.'

If you would like to contribute to the discussion about the artist of the work please click here:

These changes will appear on the Your Paintings website by the end of August 2014.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Martin Hopkinson,

The shade of blue in the background reminds me of Ambrose McEvoy. Could this be a late work of his - the second half of the 1920s perhaps?

Martin Hopkinson,

I have now had a chance to look through the Witt Library boxes. This portrait is definitely not by McEvoy.

Martin Hopkinson,

Professor Kenneth McConkey might be able to help in identifying the artist

Martin Hopkinson,

Could this be an English portrait by Jacques Emile Blanche, rather than by a British artist?

Martin Hopkinson,

The new study of Blanche by Jane Roberts, Jacques Emile Blanche, Paris, 2002 has not yet reached the British Library, the National Art Library, the Tate Library or the Courtauld Institute, but there are copies in the London Library and the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art.
Blanche's father was a psychiatrist and he was familiar with the medical world. His two memoirs,' Portraits of a Lifetime' , and ' More Portraits of a Lifetime', however, are not entirely reliable as he liked a good story. He was frequently in Britain and many portraits by him of British sitters are

Martin Hopkinson,

Could the owners be asked to look at the back of the picture for any exhibition or other labels , or inscriptions? Would it be possible for a visitor to the hospital to arrange to see the picture?

Royal Free Hospital,

Yes, I would be glad to show you the picture. Please ring 020 7830 2041 to make an appointment.

There is nothing on the back other than the movers' label cited in the original question.

A M,

I'm wondering how you arrived at the 1920 date and if that is definitely reliable. There are some features of the subject's appearance which could all help with a date with further research. This is my interpretation of them, but I'm not an expert.

I understand that men wore flamboyant colours in the 1920s, they had colourful suits, shirts, hand painted ties and bright pocket squares (the black and white photos of the era mislead us). This man's appearance is very discreet, his green shirt is the only nod to colour, suggesting either perhaps an earlier date, or a more conservative character or occasion.

His hair:

His hair suggests early 20th century. By the 1920s men were wearing their hair flat combed and their faces clean-shaven.
- His hair is short which because popular at the turn of the twentieth century. And it is slicked back with wax, Macassar oil or pomade, though he has kept his centre parting. Pomade was shinier than wax and was popularised with Murray's Superior Pomade in 1925.
- His natural style moustache and clean shaven appearance probably means this is post the invention of the Gillette safety razor in 1903. I can't tell if he's using any wax or pomade to style it.

His shirt and tie:

- The long necktie with finger-thick gap to show his top shirt button was fashionable at the end of the 1800s. No stick pin. The fabric is plain without the school or regiment pattern common in Britain, or hand painting which was popular after the war; it is slim so might suggest it is pre WW1 if in the UK. It is tied with a neat, narrow, triangular knot (perhaps the Prince Albert knot or tight Four In Hand) and has a dimple. If you can determine if it is a Langsdorf pattern tie you could date it pre or post 1926.
- His shirt in plain, dark green. It reminds me medical colour, like a surgeon's gown of today - did doctors get issued with clothes?
- The collar is a medium high, white, winged turned down (not buttoned down), club shape collar - maybe the Marlborough or Middlesex style. It's starched, but there are signs of it being bent in places so fairly soft. The club collar had its origins in the 19th century Eton uniform. The stiff collar was in competition with the soft collar in the 1920s so the painting may be earlier or formal. The fact that it is a different colour to his shirt and looks starched suggests it is detachable so may be early twentieth century (the attached Arrow collar came onto the US market in 1907 and proved hugely popular), but no obvious collar stud.

His suit:

It's three piece, matching (so discreet) suit in brown which wasn't the more popular fashionable colours. I can't tell if its tweed or flannel or what its weight is. Could be a Sack Suit, a style of lounge suit popular in the Edwardian era.

- His waistcoat is single breasted, high fastening with at least three buttons.
- His jacket is single breasted, has long notch lapels (no button hole), there might be a straight integral or patch right hip pocket (I can't see if there is a chest pocket, but no sign of a pocket square), no pleats or belt (so not a Norfolk), no pattern in the weave so can't tell if it's off the peg or tailored. It looks quite baggy so could be a sack jacket.

Is there something metallic hanging around his neck - just visible against his lapel?

For more information can I suggest you contact the very knowledgable and forensic men's style enthusiast, Christopher Laverty ( Or refer to one of Sue Nightingale's books on vintage men's fashion.

Elaine Clark,

There was a W Biddick, picture frame maker, operating in Caledonian Rd London in the 1920s. Could this be the source of the label on the back of the painting?

Martin Hopkinson,

The new book on Blanche mentioned above [published in 2012 not 2002] neither confirms nor throws doubt on an attribution to him. However, he usually signed his works, as Kenneth McConkey has reminded me. So an attribution to him must be very tentative. Kenneth tells me that Jane Roberts has a very large collection of photographs of Blanche's paintings - he was a very prolific artist. So she must be best placed to comment on an attribution to Blanche.
Her website through which one can consult her is
She is an art dealer and consultant working in Paris, and she has been working since 1987 towards a catalogue raisonne of his oeuvre

Martin Hopkinson,

Is there any evidence that this painting has been cut down?

Alice Gibbs,

Possibly a portrait of Dr John Leyden Morton, a medical practitioner born 8 Feb 1869 and died in Cambridge Sept 1970. He was the son of Dr John Morton, a physician in Hampstead. His brother, Thomas Sale Morton (b. 1867), was a headmaster.

I’ve included an obituary and photo of Dr. John Leyden Morton’s brother, Thomas Morton. In my opinion, although the photo is very poor quality, there are clear similarities to the sitter in question (especially the chin) and they could very well be brothers.

January 23, 1962 edition of the Times:


Mr. T. S. Morton, a well-known figure in the preparatory school world of a generation ago, and founder and first headmaster of the school which became Eaton House School, Eaton Gate, died in a St. Albans nursing home on Sunday in his ninety-fifth year.

Thomas Sale Morton, born in 1867, the elder son of a Hampstead physician, Dr. John Morton, was a descendant of the Scottish antiquarian John Leyden and of W. J. Thomas, founder of Notes and Queries, and thus inherited a tradition of scholarly pursuits. From Charterhouse he went as a classical scholar to Clare College, Cambridge, and in 1888 joined Dr. Williams's staff at Summer Fields, Oxford. It was in the days when the great public schools demanded a thorough grounding in the classics from their young entrants, and the Summer Fields' products regularly carried off a range of scholarships and places at Eton, Winchester, and Westminster. Morton was a skilful Latinist and some of his translations have been used in schools for years as text-books, and he had the gift of interesting small boys in the Greek and Roman worlds.

With the encouragement of Mrs. Maurice Macmillan, mother of the Prime Minister, he planned in 1897 a day preparatory school in Cliveden Place, and soon began to draw large numbers of boys from Belgravia. He used to say that of all the boys he taught he thought "young Harold Macmillan" was the brightest. But he had considerable respect for the classical discipline which emerged in other pupils such as Ronald Knox, Lord Wavell, and in later years Anthony Asquith. He remembered doing private coaching at 10 Downing Street during the First World War with Mrs. Asquith on hands and knees coaxing a reluctant fire to save master and pupil from freezing. He would usually be invited to stay to luncheon and on one occasion was asked to stay in order to keep the conversation going with Lord Kitchener. His devotion to teaching and dislike of administration made him dispose of his highly successful school, and in the later part of his career he was a member of the staff at The Hall, Hampstead. His tall, spare figure was always noticeable at meetings of the Classical Association, and while he bemoaned the decline of the classics in English education he did not resist the conclusion that there were other interests demanding the studied attention of young English gentlemen. He was unmarried.

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Martin Hopkinson,

This is an interesting suggestion, but I think that 'the rheumatologist' was probably at least half a generation younger

Alice Gibbs,

Yes, you're definitely right if we're assuming it's painted in the 20's.

Alice Gibbs,

The only other person I can think of who would have been around the right age is Dr. Charles Brehmer Heald

Paul Kettlewell,

Attached is a short obituary for C B Heald from the Times - sounds very possible. There are a couple of pictures of one of his daughters, who became Lady Vincent Fairfax, on the internet - could be a family resemblance?

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Martin Hopkinson,

Alice is right -WELL DONE!
see his obituary in The Times 12 February 1974, in the British Medical Journal , 1974, I, p .398 and the very informative on line entry on him in the Royal College of Physicians Lives of the Fellows. Born 1882 in Bowden , Cheshire , first on the staff of the RFH c. 1910 -14 as resident medical officer and then in 1921 consulting physician at the RFH - Note the RFC moustache - for he was the first medical officer to be appointed to an active service flying unit in the war , the 2nd Brigade RFC. He was involved with the RFC and its successor the RAF for 30 years - and he had a particular interest in rheumatology , being a founder member of the British Red Cross Clinic for Rheumatism , in 1945-6 created the first bedded unit for the treatment of all forms of arthritis in association with a London teaching hospital and set up a clinic for rheumatism in the Cotswolds
He was extremely fit - and therefore could have looked quite a bit younger than his age!
We need to look at Blanche's movements to see if he was in London in the early 1920s - he was frequently in England and was a particular admirer of English tailoring!

Martin Hopkinson,

I have sent Jane Roberts information on this portrait so that she can check her records on Blanche's portraits

Martin Hopkinson,

Some of Heald's papers and letters including some sort of manuscript autobiography are in the University of Manchester Library, which would be worth consulting

Paul Kettlewell,

Attached is a photograph of C B Heald from the Australian newspaper, the Townsville Daily Bulletin dated 28 Jan 1946 - it looks as though it is him.

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Royal Free Hospital,

Thank you very much for this promising suggestion - and for everyone else's contributions so far. Yes, I will check our records.

The offer remains to show Martin Hopkinson or his nominee the picture.

Jane Roberts. the expert on Blanche, has kindly responded:

I do not have any record of this picture in my “anonymous" files. We have about 1800 paintings in the “catalogue raisonné” which I have been compiling since 1987. Frankly, it could very well be by Blanche but, if it is, I am surprised it isn’t signed unless it was cut down. It could be by a British artist who was influenced by Blanche but it is very good quality for some of those! The blue backround is not typical and Blanche didn’t work on a great many commissions in England after the First World war (which this is, I think). He was extremely mediocre at hands so often cut them off (Proust’s portrait is an example of this treatment!). Is the canvas stamped with a maker: could I possibly have a picture of the back? My book is available at Thomas Heneage or through the publisher (see attachment).

I’m afraid that without a bit more information I’m unwilling to give you a definite answer at this point.

Martin Hopkinson,

Blanche exhibited at the National Portrait Society and in other London exhibitions not yet collated in the manner of Graves. When I have a bit of time, I will check these. The portrait does seem to be mentioned in those British newspapers which have been digitised.
Is there a file of information on Heald in the Royal Free Hospital Archive which might yield more information? Did the hospital have a newsletter or annual publication of that nature for its staff and benefactors, where the portrait might be mentioned?

Martin Hopkinson,

In what year did the hospital's Department of Rheumatology start its series of annual reports? Is there not a chance that the portrait is mentioned in one of these?

I am recommending that we pause to draw breath on this as there has been a lot of valuable information which now needs to be assimilated.

When the Royal Free has had a chance to think about all this then perhaps they can come back with a comment in due course but in the meantime I suggest that we cannot fruitfully progress this discussion

Royal Free Hospital,

We can arrange to look at the back of the canvas, although not immediately.

Meanwhile I have looked at the picture again and can see not the slightest trace of a signature. I cannot tell whether the picture might have been cut down; it resides in a fine frame that I had assumed was contemporary (perhaps supported by Elaine Clark's comment above about Biddick, the Caledonian Road being quite near the old Royal Free Hospital which was in Gray's Inn Road.)

Louis Musgrove,

How about an x-ray ? Post the result here.

Martin Hopkinson,

I hope to see the exhibition catalogues of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, the National Portrait Society and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters for the relevant period later this week , and will report if any of portraits of Charles Heald appear in them. I am also trying to arrange a visit to the RFH to inspect the painting in person

Royal Free Hospital,

Thank you all once again for these fascinating contributions. Alice Gibbs' suggestion that this is Dr Charles Heald is beyond reasonable doubt right. Yesterday I was sent a photograph that shows him just a little older than the portrait, but showing well the highly characteristic single crease of the frown above the nose and the distinctive shape of the face, and also the slightly baggy eyes and the hairline. This is enough for us to be content with the identification, and I will now amend the title of the picture.

This leaves the question of its authorship. I am enquiring about Dr Heald's roles in the hospital (other than as a consultant) in case the portrait was made to record a post that he held.

We have not yet inspected the back of the canvas, and perhaps will not do so without one of you experts present.

Martin Hopkinson,

The painting was not exhibited at the National Portrait Society, of which Blanche was a founder member
I am informed that the archive of the Royal Free Hospital is now with London Metropolitan Archives, to which I will go to check annual reports and newsletters in due course

I am happy to visit the Royal Free to inspect the picture next week in order to confirm various details and can be in touch accordingly with you.

Having visited the Royal Free with Martin Hopkinson we are sure that the sitter is Charles Heald.
The portrait was taken out of its frame but there were no inscriptions or other labels apart from the Biddick one. This was a remover's label
( Burnham) and was possibly stuck on if the painting was transported from Heald's home to the Hospital but that is speculation.

The artist remains unknown but the portrait appears to be an informal one, loosely painted in contrast to the polished oils on show at the Royal free which made us think it might have been a family portrait which was given to the Hospital at a date later than its production possibly after Heald or his wife died which is why the records have been patchy on the identity of the sitter. Also often a small plaque would have placed on the front of the frame but in this instance was absent. Some photographs (attached) show the painting out of frame and give some sense of the brushwork.
Heald would have been about 40 when the portrait was painted dating it to early 1920s.
There was no signature or date on the work again suggesting it was an informal rather than commissioned work but an accomplished painting, not an amateur.
I would recommend that the sitter is therefore identified (so the question has been answered) but artist currently unknown. If searches at the London Metropolitan Archive prove fruitless then it will be difficult to track down the artist on existing information.

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Additional material acquired in 1996 and 1997 chiefly comprises the papers of Charles Brehmer Heald (1882-1974), formerly consultant physician in physical medicine at the Royal Free Hospital. C.B. Heald had the distinction of serving as a medical officer in all three branches of the armed forces during the First World War. After the war he took a keen interest in electrotherapeutics and played a leading role in the development of physical medicine.

His papers include a typescript copy of his unpublished autobiography relating his colourful wartime experiences, scrapbooks, printed matter, correspondence and personal papers. These will be of interest to students of the history of medicine and particularly of the military medical services.

And one thought.
Due to the sketchy nature of this work is it an unsigned De Laszlo? He lived in Hampstead 1921-37, Heald moved to Hampstead 1922.

Katherine Field,

I'm afraid this portrait is not by de László, though he certainly fulfilled many commissions of scientific men and women. I attach the portrait of Sir Flinders Petrie as an example of his characteristic free handling of paint. He did not complete under-drawings but ‘drew with his brush’ using the sight-size method. I’ve had a look through our archive and we have nothing relating to Heald. The catalogue raisonné in progress at or get in touch directly

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Andy Mabbett,

You have, between you all, identified a number of reliable sources about Charles Heald. Would one or more of you, with access to them, like to start a Wikipedia article about him, citing them?

Martin Hopkinson,

His will may include a reference to the painting - and there may have been an inventory taken at his death