Completed British 20th C, except portraits, Military History, South East England: Artists and Subjects 51 Can it be established who painted Remembrance?

Topic: Artist

The accompanying description reads ‘This painting depicts a First World War soldier kneeling [appears to me standing] before a wayside crucifix within a dark and bomb-devastated landscape.’ The artist is unknown but are they someone with a connection to Kent and specifically Deal, or is there a different connection to explore? The digital image we have of the painting is small in size, but it has been enlarged and the contrast adjusted to see just a bit clearer the cross to the right and the path leading to a seemingly damaged building in the background. [Group leader: Grant Waters]

David Saywell, Head of Digital Assets, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed as there have been no further comments since February 2022. The artist's identity is still unknown.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


The Collection have commented: ‘It would be great to be able to identify the artist of this work if you are able to help. We’re afraid that we cannot provide much extra information. We have checked the back of the painting and there is nothing written on it. In terms of origins, a significant number of framed images (mostly prints with some paintings, including this one) were moved to Walmer Castle from Deal Castle in 1939 as part of efforts to consolidate historically significant objects into safe storage. In this case that was fortunate because Deal Castle was bombed during the war and the Captain’s Apartments were demolished. Following the war Deal Castle was made structurally sound but restored to its Tudor appearance and the post of Captain left vacant. As a result, none of the works which had been sent to Walmer were returned. We do not appear to have a record of how or when the painting arrived at Deal, in fact we’re struggling to find where the association with the castle chapel came from. The Chapel doesn’t appear in the only relevant inventory list, 1931. Of the Captains who were in post during the inter-war period, I would say that Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres, is most likely to have been involved in the painting coming to Deal. He was more active at the Castle than his successors and heavily involved in the creation of the chapel in c.1923.'

Martin Hopkinson,

it would not surprise if this was by an artist who made colour woodcuts

Peter Nahum,

It reminds me of the Arenig three, Augustus John, Dickson Innes and Derwent Lees.

Dickson Innes died in 1914, so unlikely to be him. If one of them, perhaps Derwent Lees is the most likely.

I think it is worth noting that the artist has used an Imperial sized canvas, measuring 30 x 24 inches. Thus I think we can work on the basis that this artist is likely to be British or from the then British Empire. At first glance my initial reaction is that the painting quite possibly reflects the landscape riven by war in that area close to the border Belgium has with France, known as the Ypres Salient. If this is correct it would tie in nicely with the link made in David's opening comments today in regard to a former Captain of Deal Castle, Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres, having been likely to have been involved in the painting coming to Deal (it was transferred later to Walmer).

Mark Wilson,

I know that 99% of the time these turn out to be artefacts of the digital reproduction, but is there some writing just under and slightly to the left of the figure's feet. Possibly there is the word 'SHELL' involved, so it might be more a title/description than a signature.

There might also be some writing from the left edge parallel to the feet with 'S ALCIA' at the start. Or not.

Following Armistice Day on 11th November 1918 the thoughts of the nation turned to Remembrance and the first Remembrance Day was on 11th November 1919. My feeling is that the present painting may well date to the period late 1918 or more likely 1919. This memorial appears to have been erected on a battlefield site rather than being an existing calvary of the type to be found in France and in French speaking Belgium. Further thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Martin Hopkinson,

Do we know which troops were stationed in Deal Castle at this period , or the artists who were teaching in the local schools?
Betteshanger House is thought by some to be where Rupert Brooke composed his fsmous poem 'The Soldier' in 1914-5
The artist Walter John James [1869-1932]was the son of the 2nd Baronet of Betteshanger, who owned the estate. Could he have been involved with the commission?
The Beaney, Canterbury owns his 1921 The Big Cloud
Are there paintings in the two neighbouring churches at Betteshanger and Nortbourne?
Could the painting relate to the commemoration of the death of Brooke in 1915?

This morning Marcie begins the task of establishing a community of images into which Remembrance might conceivably fit. As travellers in Picardy will recall, roofed wayside crosses are not uncommon – indeed they occur across northern Europe, as Grant observes. Martin’s mention of Walter James may also be apposite. The ref to Brooke is tantalizing and Betteshanger became a stomping ground for Henry Tonks.

When this first appeared, a number of names occurred to me. None, I hasten to add, are candidates for the author of the present work, but they all contain crosses, one with a pitched roof, placed parallel to the picture plane. They are: Percy Jowett’s England Triptych, c. 1918; Charles Sims’s Sacrifice c. 1917-8 (IWM and Canadian War Museum versions) and his lost roundel, Greater Love Hath No Man, c. 1917; and William Orpen’s Mad Woman of Douai, c. 1918 (IWM). All images are on the web.

All to some extent owe their wayside crosses to Orpen’s earlier A Western Wedding 1913, a work purchased by Prince Matsukata, and sadly destroyed in the Bourlet fire of 1939.

In more general terms one might look back to David Murray’s A Cross on the Dunes, Picardy, 1885 (Williamson AG, Birkenhead) or scour Alphonse Legros for his various renderings of L’Ex Voto.

The hieratic quality of the present work, the fanning sunset and twilit soldier, are however noteworthy features that suggest the general area of RCA and Slade School Neo-Primitivism.

Does its condition suggest that Remembrance is an abandoned first idea? Does it require a surface clean?

Either way, the author should not remain illusive for long.

As a former Captain of Deal Castle is mentioned in the opening post, I am posting some very brief information about him. Field Marshal Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres was born in 1852 and died in 1925. At the outbreak of World War 1 he was appointed Head of the British Expeditionary Force in France. In December 1915 he was replaced as Commander-in-Chief of the BEF by General Douglas Haig (later Field Marshal Haig and created 1st Earl Haig). John French, created Viscount French in 1916, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1918 and created 1st Earl of Ypres in 1922. In 1923 he was appointed Captain of Deal Castle where he lived until his death in 1925.

The collection at Walmer Castle received two paintings from the collection at Deal Castle in 1939, both by 'unknown artist'. One was the painting currently under discussion 'Remembrance' and the other was the one linked below titled 'Church Interior'.

English Heritage at Walmer Castle notes: 'Two paintings, 'Remembrance' and a 'Church Interior', formed part of the Remembrance Chapel in Deal Castle. This was created in memory of Field Marshal John French I, Earl of Ypres, the first Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in World War I, and a Captain of Deal Castle'.

This begs the question were both acquired for Deal Castle by their one-time Captain, Lord Ypres, and are the two connected in some other way, e.g. artist or remembering the fallen? Both have the same potential date of execution recorded against them of 1914-18.


Martin Hopkinson,

The interior seems to be by a different artist and if put up for a discussion some keen eyed contibutor might be able to identify it

One of the issues we face in this discussion is the uncertain full provenance in regard to this painting. According to the website they have a section on Deal Castle and say 'one relatively recent addition inside is the chapel, built in 1923 by General Sir John French, the First Earl of Ypres....when he was Captain of Deal Castle'. If the 1923 date can be confirmed it adds to the likelihood that Lord Ypres also had a considerable influence on the choice of furnishings for the chapel including the paintings and prints which hung there.

Assuming Lord Ypres was involved, is it known whether he wrote his memoirs, which could possibly include reference to his tenure as Captain of Deal Castle?

One final comment. I take it that it is accepted that the title of the painting 'Remembrance' is not one given to it by the as yet unknown artist but rather a later addition by a cataloguer?

Jacinto Regalado,

In my opinion, it is not out of the question that both "Remembrance" and "Church Interior" are by the same hand. I tend to suspect that they were chosen more for personal than artistic reasons, and that they may have been made by a non-professional artist.

Marcie, thank you for the information in regard to the will of the 1st Earl of Ypres and for the detail in regard to his elder son's art. The son, who became the 2nd Earl of Ypres, was John Richard Lowndes French (1881-1958). He is known to have exhibited in the period 1912-23, including a show at The Fine Art Society where 30 works were shown, and there were two works at the Royal Academy namely 'Days of Chivalry' 1914 and 'The Battery Commander' 1917. He also showed at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (7 works) and one work at the Royal Institute of Watercolour Painters. I have since seen several examples of his work online which are of a good standard, including 'Marriage of Princess Mary' 1922 and 'H.M. King's Guard, Whitehall' 1923. From these online images it is apparent that he signed his work with initials RF and an abbreviated date, e.g. '17'. He was listed as an artist as J. Richard L. French.

Martin Hopkinson,

There was an Art School at Dover from 1894. The sculptor Richard Reginald Goulden studied there
It is probable that there were a few artists at the Connaught and Langdon Barracks, as well among the Royal Marines at Deal

I think the best lead we have currently with this discussion is the possible connection with Sir John French, the 1st Earl of Ypres. If that lead is fruitless then as Martin suggests I think we should consider other options.

At this stage I am very interested in when, how and why 'Remembrance' and the other work, a church interior, were acquired for the chapel at Deal Castle. 1923 remains a strong possibly for date but is not yet confirmed officially. The painting 'Remembrance' uses religious iconography and as Christ is depicted on the cross that is an icon of the Catholic faith. It may be because the setting is likely to be north eastern France or southern Belgium but whoever acquired the painting must surely have been aware of the significance. Or does the iconography suggest that our artist was of the Catholic faith?

Martin Hopkinson,

Remembrance may be an exhibited painting . So a search of Royal Academy exhibition catalogues of the early 1920s is very desirable

Jacinto Regalado,

An oil titled "Remembrance" by Kate R. Coughtrie was shown at the RA in 1917 (No. 379), clearly allusive to the dead of WWI according to the text in the RA catalogue.

Marcie Doran,

Another possibility is that the next Captain of Deal Castle (after the death of Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres), Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby, added paintings to the chapel as a tribute to his son who died in Belgium in 1917.

Here is his Wikipedia page.,_1st_Viscount_Allenby

His Wikipedia page states the following:
"His son, a lieutenant in the Royal Horse Artillery, was to die of wounds on 29 July 1917 aged 19, at Coxyde, Belgium."

An article (attached) in the 'Dundee Courier' of Friday, September 3, 1926, reports that he and his wife were art collectors.

Marcie, I think that is another very worthline line of enquiry.

I think we need to establish as far as is possible exactly when the chapel was furnished (1923?) and if the entire operation was under the direction of Lord Ypres prior to his death in 1925. If he selected the paintings, and there were no additions to the collection during the subsequent tenure of Viscount Allenby as Captain (1925-27), then we can focus on the connections Lord Ypres may have had.

By the way the newspaper article you attached doesn't actually say that the Allenbys were art collectors, rather it was reported they 'are interested in art' and 'Deal full of art treasures'. They may well have collected themselves but the probability is that many of the treasures referred to were held in trust by the custodians of the castle.

Martin Hopkinson,

We should also bear in mind that Wiliam Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp, a Roman Catholic, was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports from 1913 to 1932, and created a chapel in Walmer Castle, his official residence.
Could this painting have Catholic undertones?

Martin Hopkinson,

Sir John French was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1918 for much of the troubles , and his sister was involved on the Republican side. So if he was involved with this painting, it could also reflect the deaths in the Irish War of Independence [1919-22]
It is even possible that the artist was Irish

Mark, I will see if a better sized image can be obtained here. I can't make any enlargements with the image we currently have on Art UK. David

The Curator will be going to Walmer in a few week's time to view the artwork. They have additionally said: 'In the meantime, I have checked with the Historian and he has confirmed that the Chapel was created by French with a memorial plaque added later. French died in May 1925, and there is have a reference to repairing a pipe which passes through the “chapel” in August of the same year, before the next captain took up residence (Allenby). Also, in November, there are letters about the memorial tablet to be placed in the chapel.'

Martin Hopkinson,

French's association with Ireland might suggest that it would be worth looking at the catalogues of the exhibitions of the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin

Martin Hopkinson,

Was there a sale of French's own art colletion after his death, which might provide some clues?

It would appear that Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres, was offered the Captaincy of Deal Castle in August 1923 and as he died on 22nd May 1925 he didn't have a great deal of time to create the chapel there. However, it appears to be the case that the chapel was indeed completed during his tenure and a memorial tablet placed there in November 1925. Given these timelines I suspect that the work to chapel would be have completed in mid to late 1924 or in 1925. In the light of those dates I would have expected, at the very least, that local newspapers would have run a story about the creation of the chapel, especially given the national reputation of the Captain. Would it be possible please for one of our super sleuth contributors to search for newspaper articles about the work to the chapel in the period 1924/1925? Hopefully any such articles may refer to the contents and how they arrived in the chapel. Also it would be good to know if local newspapers ran a comprehensive obituary for Lord Ypres say 23rd May 1925 to mid June 1925 and if so what was written about his tenure as Captain at Deal. Thanks to all.

Martin Hopkinson,

The local Deal papers were still accessible by appointment in Deal in the 1990s

Martin Hopkinson,

Of course this may have been a bequest not a gift or commission

Martin Hopkinson,

Can the greatcoat help to identify whether the landscape is Irish rather than European?

Osmund Bullock,

I actually think what is portrayed is a kilt or kilt cover beneath a tunic - there is a clear dark break between the flared bottom of the tunic (well below the belt) and the 'skirt' below, which wouldn't make sense for a greatcoat. But it's portrayed very poorly, much too long - the artist can never have seen a kilted soldier...or perhaps even a kilt! I've a number of images saved when researching this, and will try and post later today if I have time. This would make him a Highlander, either Scots or Canadian. The stopgap leather belt (if it is) for 'other ranks' suggests earlier in the War (I'm sure it's WWI) - it was superseded during 1915 by a webbing one, though many continued to be used thereafter. And this is the period when Sir John French was in charge.

I suspect it's an imagined scene in Flanders, a battle-weary soldier in the aftermath of one of the sub-battles of the First Battle of Ypres in Autumn 1914 (from which French took his title). He has paused on the road by the Cross, but what he's looking at is a smaller, more personal cross nearby - probably placed, perhaps by himself, in remembrance of lost friends and comrades.

Detail attached.

EDIT: No, I'm wrong about the date - he's carrying a helmet, which puts it at Autumn 1915 or later.

1 attachment
Martin Hopkinson,

Obviously it is very likely to refer to WWI, but in view of French's time in Ireland another reading is possible
I had not noticed before that French was born in the little village of Ripple and is in buried in the graveyard of its parish church, St Mary the Virgin - within walking distance of Deal Castle, albeit a long walk which I have done several times - although I have never been inside the church

Mark, the Collection have checked both the paintings in person and there is no writing on either image. The backs of both are also blank. David

Mark Wilson,

David, thanks to you and the Collection for checking that out. When I looked at the contrast-adjusted version you supplied initially I can't see any permanence in the bit under the feet and that's being based on the same digital file. But I still had a little hope for the other area, though it's no surprise there's nothing.

It's also useful to know that there's no extra information on the back - though you might not expect much in the way of sales or exhibitions in something that was presumably acquired soon after being painted. But an image produced for a place of worship might be signed more 'discreetly' on the reverse.

One thing that does strike me about the picture is that the design with it's central powerful image and sense of space rather resembles certain sorts of poster design, though obviously no poster would have such muted and uniform colours. Could this be produced by someone normally working as a commercial artist, producing such work?

Martin Hopkinson,

Something intangible about this makes me think that the artist may be Irish