Topic: Subject or sitter

Can anyone help use identify the sitter in this portrait? We'd love to know more about her.

Gallery Oldham, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Although currently undated on Art UK, it was probably exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1924, as in that year no. 456 was the artist’s 'Girl in a Wood' So this probably should date from 1924 or before – certainly it was purchased from the artist in 1926. We have asked the Collection if they have any more information within their records or have an image of the back of the painting that they might be able to make available, and we should receive a reply from Tuesday of next week.

Marcie Doran,

This research project “ALAN BEETON ARA (1880 – 1942)” in Art & Antiques Appraisals discusses “two local favourite models” but does not name the younger of the two.

“Two local favourite models were a gypsy woman and girl who Beeton worked with extensively at Hammonds. The older gypsy, Myrenni, now has her portrait hung in the Master’s Lodge at Trinity, on loan there from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, to whom it was donated by Lord Rothermere.
Beeton had noticed the gypsy girl with her interesting face and approached her about being a model which she then frequently did.”

Jacinto Regalado,

This girl does not look like a gypsy to me, and her face does not strike me as what is typically called "interesting."

Marcie Doran,

Yes, I agree with you, Jacinto. However, I thought it might help if she was a local model.

Jacinto Regalado,

This is, however, an interesting picture, more so to me than the one of the gypsy woman at Cambridge (which is on Art UK). It combines a pre-Raphaelite setting with an Ingres or Bouguereau-like figure (in terms of technique). It does not feel French, of course, but it is very much itself, quite unconcerned with what was going on around it art-wise at the time.

Kieran Owens,

The attached news item, from the Walsall Observer and South Staffordshire Chronicle, of Friday 17th May 1963, makes reference to the presentation of Sir Gerald Kelly's "A Painter's Choice" collection. In Derek Hudson's 'For Love of Painting: The Life of Sir Gerald Kelly' (1975) the author notes that this was a travelling exhibition, though he does not list the host venues' names.

Thus, the above-mentioned catalogue can be dated to 1963.

The show should not be confused with the exhibition of works owned by Edward Le Bas, R.A., entitled 'A Painter's Collection', which had been presented at the Royal Academy up to the 28th of April of that same year.

Jacinto Regalado,

The sitter need not be a professional model, obviously.

I have now found an image of Beeton's model 'Marguerite' as illustrated on page 101 of Royal Academy Illustrated 1928. Two photos area attached. Marguerite (Kelsey) was a dancer and a favourite model of the artist. The eyebrows in her portrait are similar to those of the model in 'Girl in a Wood' but I don't think Marguerite is 'our' sitter.

Other preferred models were, of course, the artist's wife Geneste, a gypsy girl 'Myrenni', and Rita des Isles who bears no resemblance to the 'Girl in the Wood'.

The most comprehensive review to be found on Beeton is, I think, the one here:

I am drawn to the portrait of a gypsy girl about three quarters the way down the article, illustrated on the right hand side and to the author's comment 'Beeton had noticed the gypsy girl with her interesting face and approached her about being a model which she then frequently did'.

Her hair is the same colour, parted in the same way, with very similar eyebrows, and in my opinion a good facial match. She is the best match I can find to our 'Girl in a Wood'. Whether she is the girl known as 'Myrenni' it is not possible to tell without further information.

It is interesting to note that Alan Beeton 'never painted outdoors'. It is said that everything, including drawings, was always worked on in his studio. He only worked when he was keen to do so, destroyed a quantity of his work, and exhibited somewhat infrequently.


what a beautifully-kept grave for the Bonners. their daughter or family must care for it - and maybe have information about Myrennie?

Marcie Doran,

I have contacted some of Myrennie's family members on Ancestry, Jan, and I have heard back from her brother's granddaughter. Perhaps someone in the family has old photos that will help to determine the identity of some of Beeton's models. There are touching memories about Myrennie and her life in Crays Pond here:

Marcie, I think that should be a very useful line of enquiry.

It looks to me that there is some conflicting information in regard to paintings said to be of members of who we think to be the Smith family. In the Art & Antiques Appraisals articles it states 'Two local favourite models were a gypsy woman and girl who Beeton worked with extensively at Hammonds. The older gypsy, Myrenni, now has her portrait hung in the Master’s Lodge at Trinity, on loan there from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, to whom it was donated by Lord Rothermere'. That painting was donated to Cambridge in 1927 and as Myrennie (Myrenni) appears to have been born in 1911, that would make her say 16 years of age at most in this portrait. With all due respect to the sitter, she looks a lot older than 16 to me. Could the painting be of Myrennie' s older sisters or indeed of her mother (who would have been about 41 years of age in 1926/27? And, of course, you found that Myrennie was the younger daughter, not the elder. It looks to me from the 1911 census that Myrennie had four elder siblings, if I am reading the census information correctly, they were Victoria (born 1900/1), Selina (born c 1901/2), Leander (born c 1903/4), and Loisa (born c 1908/9).

Turning now to the artist's potentially relevant exhibits I picked out:

Royal Academy

1924 'Girl in a Wood' (the subject of this discussion)
1927 'Gipsy' - spelt as recorded
1928 'Isabella', not mentioned hitherto?
1931 'A Romany Girl' - one of the Smiths?

and from the Sir Gerald Kelly initiated exhibition in, I think the early 1970s (he died in 1972):

Exh 12 - 'Head of Gypsy Girl'
Exh 19 - 'The Gypsy' (lent by the Fitzwilliam, as referred to above)
Exh 25 - 'Girl in a Wood' the subject of this discussion

The Cambridge painting 'Gipsy' was donated by Lord Rothermere in 1927 and it may be reasonable to assume that he acquired it at the Royal Academy in that year, with the intention of passing it to a public collection.

I wonder whether the RA 1931 painting 'A Romany Girl' is of Myrennie, who would then have been about twenty years of age.

Hopefully in your correspondence with Myrennie's family they may be able to clarify some of these issues. Thank you.

Marcie Doran,

Here's some very useful information from the granddaughter of Myrennie's brother. She told me that there was a portrait of Myrennie's sister "Lena Smith" by Alan Beeton. She sent me the image and it is 'The Gipsy' at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

According to Myrennie's relative, "Selina (Lena) Smith married another Smith - Job Smith". Ancestry records show that Lena was baptized as "Ann Selina Caroline Smith" on February 4, 1903, in Frimley, St. Peter, Surrey. On the 1911 Census, she is recorded as being 9 years old. She married Job Smith in Q3 1927, in Headington, Oxfordshire. On the 1939 England and Wales Register the couple were living in Abingdon, Berkshire. I realize that the address is difficult to read – it has been transcribed as "36&37; (Combined) Hop Huts".

Osmund Bullock,

The "36 & 37" goes with the "(Combined)" - there's no punctuation between - and "Hop Huts" is correctly transcribed. Kingston Bagpuize was well-known for its hop-growing (see, e.g. - these huts would have been erected to house the temporary / itinerant labourers who came to pick the hops in late summer / early autumn, which happened to coincide with the date of the 1939 Register on the 29th Sept.

Marcie, I have no doubt that the Fitzwilliam will be delighted with the information you have gathered together in regard to the 1927 painting 'The Gipsy'. I will draw the attention of David Saywell to this in order that he can refer it to The Fitzwilliam Museum. When Art UK has that dialogue it would help if they can set out Selina's dates to enhance the fuller painting description. It seems to me that there is an error somewhere as Selina (Lena) Smith is recorded as age 9 in the 1911 census (so born in 1902 or late in 1901) yet in the 1939 England and Wales Register her date of birth is given as 9th October 1903. It would help if we could record that event accurately and also if the surviving family has an indication of the date of Lena's passing.

Moving to the subject of this discussion, the painting 'Girl in a Wood', would you be able to send a link to the Smith family descendants to see whether they can identify the girl / young woman depicted? It would also be helpful to know if they have any knowledge of other Smith family connections to the artist Alan Beeton. From the known exhibits Alan Beeton appears to have painted several portraits of women and girls of Romany heritage. We now know that Selina (Lena) was the sitter for at least one painting. It may well be the case that he painted her sister(s) too. The artist clearly found them to be engaging models.

Marcie Doran,

The extended Smith family has been notified about this discussion by the relative who has been so helpful, Grant.

Typically, the birth order of children is respected on the Census form. Fortunately, this would seem to be the case for the 1911 Census entries for the Smith girls and it means that their birth dates can be more easily determined. Note that Census Day in 1911 was April 2.

On the 1911 Census, Victoria Smith was reportedly the eldest child in the family. According to the record of her death, she was born on May 10, 1901, yet on the 1939 England and Wales Register she was born on May 10, 1900. Her age was reported as 10 years on the 1911 Census - correct if she was born in 1900. Victoria passed away in Q4 1970. She had married Henry ("Harry") Doe.

The record of Ann Selina Caroline ("Lena") Smith's death shows that she was born on October 9, 1901, yet the 1939 England and Wales Register shows that she was born on October 9, 1903. She could not have been born on October 9, 1903, since she was baptized on February 4, 1903. Her age was reported as nine years on the 1911 Census - correct if she was born in 1901. She could have been born in 1902. She passed away in Q1 1979.

According to the 1911 Census, Leander ("Lenda") Smith was born in about 1904. She married William Gregory in Q3 1924. A December 24, 1932, news article reported that Mrs. Lenda Gregory lived in a caravan at Beech Lane, Woodcote, Reading, Berkshire.

According to her record of baptism, Louisa Smith was born in about April 1909. The 1911 Census record was likely correct since she was reported as being two years old. A possible death record is the 1997 record for a Louisa Smith of Henley. It shows a birth date of January 9, 1909. The birth month and day would conform with a 1939 England and Wales Register entry for a Louisa Doe (corrected to “Smith”), living in a caravan in Buckinghamshire, who reported that she was born on January 9, 1907.

Myrennie Smith is not reported on the 1911 Census because she was born after Census Day. Her probate entry shows that she passed away on July 6, 1980. I have attached the record of her marriage. I hope that I haven't overwhelmed this discussion with unimportant information.

Marcie Doran,

I have read that, at the University of Liverpool, there is an archive of about 300 photos of British Romany families that were taken by Fred Shaw. They reportedly date from the 1890s to 1940s and include names, dates and locations. I was not able to figure out how to access them online.

Perhaps the photo at this link is one of them since it seems to have so much information about it. It shows a gypsy woman named "Lena Smith" in Epsom.

The Lena Smith in the photograph looks older than the woman in the Beeton painting at the Fitzwilliam, Lena Smith of Henley, but she could be the same young woman.

Lean Smith was not an uncommon name in England in the 20th century. There is no date on the photo but if we assume that the photo dates from about 1936, Lena Smith of Henley would have been 34/35 years old. I've found two other gypsy women named Lena Smith in news articles from the 20th century. Both articles provide their ages:
1. An article from October 23, 1936, mentions a gypsy woman named Lena Smith, age 16, of Caversham (Reading).
2. An article from August 7, 1930, mentions a gypsy woman named Lena Smith, age 48, in Patcham (Brighton and Hove).

Roz Capek,

In 1994 I was in touch with a great aunt who claimed the girl in the picture was her sister, Rose Looker of Checkendon aged 12/14

Good evening Roz. Thank you very much for your post. As you may have seen we have been endeavouring to identify the model for this painting for about eighteen months, with rather limited success to date. If we are to recommend to Gallery Oldham that an update to the description of this painting is appropriate we will need to provide some supporting evidence. Thus it would help enormously if you could let us know the name of your great aunt and the circumstances under which she disclosed to you in 1994 that her sister Rose was the model for the painting 'Girl in a Wood'. Had your aunt either seen the painting at Oldham or had she seen an image of it somewhere? Any detail would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Gallery Oldham,

Good morning. Rebecca, Senior Curator at Gallery Oldham here. Thank you so much to all the contributors on this thread. So much useful information. As Grant says, we'd love to hear more about you contact with the relative, Roz.

Roz Capek,

I regret I have very limited evidence to support the claim. I have found two letters from my aunt from that time which give background information. When I tried to attach photos of the letters an error occurred so I require IT support! It is for others to decide if there is any merit to it. I will attempt to provide the context so that you can choose whether further investigation is warranted.

My great aunt was Helen Hague. She was the wife of my maternal grandfather’s brother, Henry Hague, so not a blood relative. She writes her father was Albert. I had a few encounters with her as a child but no contact as an adult until her only son, David, invited my mother and I to visit him (I would need to find out if he is still alive). After lunch we walked the short distance from his house to his mother’s flat to see her. At the time I was living in Checkendon and was astonished to find Helen had lived there as a child. Once we had established this connection she was away with her memories. She told me about Mr Beeton painting her sister and that she wondered what had happened to the painting. I was able to tell her members of the Beeton family still lived in Checkendon and I would see if I could find out for her.

Following the visit I think we exchanged some photos, I sent her current photos of many of the places she remembered. I was in touch with the Beeton family who seemed to have records of most of Alan’s paintings. Through them I was able to get a couple of black and white images (a photocopy?) of the painting for my aunt and myself. They didn’t know anything about my aunt’s sister being the model and I am not sure that they embraced the news. Through them I knew the painting was in Oldham. I recall being shown a newspaper cutting with a small picture of the painting.

In her letter my aunt says as a child she lived across the road from the church, in Checkendon. She says her sister was called Rose Looker when she was 12-14 but it got changed to Myrtle. She says cousins lived in Stoke Row. I think this was at the house then called Bodgers. She mentions a book being written by the then owner. If my memory is correct this might have been Angela Spencer Harper who wrote Dipping into the Wells. Aunt also mentions she, “lived at Wheelers Farm for a year, with the Owens, Wilfred Owen’s brother, wartime poet they rented it while Rodgarden Shaw was being built and used to see Allen Beeton painting gypsy Smith and a portrait of his wife. A Mr Hart lived at Hammond Farm at that time”

Louis Musgrove,

To go sideways.Alan Beeton was in Camoflage in WW1 ,awarded the M.C and Croix de Guerre.Here is little snippet.Pasted in---
Alan Beeton (8 February 1880, London - 20 December 1942), British artist. The son of wealthy parents, he attended Trinity College, Cambridge, but left after the second year to work at being an artist full time. Circa 1900 he moved to Paris for three years where he met fellow artist Gerald Kelly who was to become his closest friend. When World War I began, he joined first as a private in the infantry, then as a captain in the Royal Engineers, before joining the Camouflage Unit, a group of artists working in a small factory just behind the front line. It was a dangerous job and he would be awarded the Military Cross - twice mentioned in dispatches - and the Croix de Guerre. It was in the unit that he met his future wife, Geneste. They married after the war, setting up a home for themselves and their family in London. His work was focused on portraits and still-lifes, but because of his family's money, he was never ambitious in furthering his career and only painted what interested him. He lived a very quiet life and approached his art-making in a very workman-like manner, fussing over the same paintings often for years. Illness would eventually slow him, but he worked until the very end. After his death at the age of sixty-two, his family found a large trove of his paintings stored in his studio, paintings never seen, work that hadn't risen to his level of perfectionism.

Marcie Doran,

Thank you for the information, Louis. That's a remarkable development, Roz. I've located documents that include some of the people you have mentioned:

- The 1939 England and Wales record for Alfred "Henry" Hague and his wife Helen Hague [née Looker]

- The 1911 England and Wales Census record for the Looker family (including Albert and his daughters Helen and Rose) in Checkendon.

- A screenprint of the 1921 Census entry for Rose Looker on the Findmypast website. I have not ordered the image or transcript.

- The record from 1933 that shows the marriage of Rose Looker and Henry Charles Mason.

- The 1911 England and Wales Census record for the Hart family in Checkendon. Notice that the artist Elizabeth Violet Polunin (née Hart) is one of the people at that location.

Osmund Bullock,

Circumstantially Rose Looker is very possible, though an age of 12-14 would be surprising. She was born at Dogmore End, Stoke Row (adjacent to Checkendon) on 5th October 1905, which would make her at most 16, nearly 17 if the picture was painted, or at least conceived at the same time of year as depicted (foxgloves generally flower June-Sept, sometimes earlier in warm springs) - i.e. summer 1923.

She was the daughter and eldest child of Albert James Looker (1875-1955), a West Midlands-born "general labourer"; his wife and Rose's mother Ada Edith nee Arthur came from north Oxfordshire, but both families had moved to the south of the county by June 1905 when they were married at Checkendon. 1911 & 1921 Censuses, together with the birthplaces of their eight children, indicate that the main family remained in or very near Checkendon from 1906 to at least 1921, and parents Albert and Ada were still there in 1939. In the (June) 1921 Census, though, Rose (aged 15) was recorded in service as a housemaid at Woodcote House, a substantial Georgian mansion owned by the Borthwick family - however this was no further from Beeton's home Hammonds than her parents' home in Checkendon. See attached map.

Rose had three younger sisters who might be the great aunt that Roz Capek was in touch with in 1994: Helen (born early 1907), Edith (b.c. Oct 1911) and Alice May (b.c. Aug 1916). I'm still looking into their lives, but Rose herself married and had children and grandchildren - I'll write that up later tonight, and also attach a pdf of the documents that support the narrative of her life.

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Osmund Bullock,

Ah, right. Should have refreshed and checked before I posted - Marcie has - of course! - already posted most of the relevant records, and will doubtless be working on Rose's descendants right now. Better leave her to it, and I'll just pick up later any odds and ends she may miss.

Roz, that is wonderfully rich, quite fascinating information, and of immense value. What an art historical treasure trove! Thank you.

Marcie Doran,

That information is very helpful, Osmund. Actually, I’m not doing any more research on this discussion. I can’t think of anything to research! I don’t think that wills would be helpful.

Roz Capek,

I have tried to send photos of one letter again. I am amazed at the response to my post this afternoon. If it works I will try to send the other

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Roz Capek,

I am sending the other and the black and white image I obtained through the Beeton family

2 attachments
Jacinto Regalado,

She looks as if she's certainly closer to 17 than to 12.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks, Marcie. As you show, Rose (still called that - perhaps Myrtle was just a family nickname) married a clergyman, Henry Charles Mason, at Brighton in June 1933. They had two children - Hugh Francis J (born 27/12/1937) and Clare V (birth registered 1939 Q4) - and by 1939 were living in Woking. The (Sep) 1939 Register shows Henry and son Hugh there, while Rose was actually in the Woking Maternity Hospital, presumably giving birth to Clare. I'm not quite sure when the Rev Henry died, but Rose did on 16/7/1966 in hospital at Woking. She actually seems to have been born on the 8th Oct, not the 5th as I wrote above - it is corrected in the 1939 Reg.

Her son Hugh died at Sheffield early in 2004 - I cannot find a probate or administration for him, and it's uncertain whether or not he married and/or had children - I suspect not. Her daughter Clare did marry, however, in Nov 1990 at Hereford - as the letter relates, she was 50 years old, and her husband was a friend from her teenage years, [Major] Jonathan Richard Cross. Major Cross died in March 1997, aged 58, but Clare would appear to be still with us and living in Herefordshire. I was probably wrong to state that Rose had grandchildren.

I'll prepare the PDF of supporting documents bed calls.

Osmund Bullock,

Roz, that is all very convincing, though you seem to have posted the same letter image twice. The only thing we are missing now is a photograph of Rose in the flesh, so to speak - ideally from the 1920s (perhaps earlier), but even a later one would be valuable to help confirm the physical likeness. In her letter to you Helen writes, "I am writing to Clare [Rose's daughter] to see if she has a photo of my sister [i.e. Rose]"; and in your detailed post yesterday you write, "Following the visit I think we exchanged some photos ...".

Did you ever get to see such a photo of Rose, and if so did you make/keep a copy? Failing that, we should probably try and get in touch with Clare, who would now be 83 years old. I have actually found contact details for her, living near Hay-on-Wye. If you *don't* have a photo of Rose, would you mind if we contacted her - or perhaps you would prefer to do so yourself? I won't post her details here publicly, but I can send them to you via the Art Detective office.

Roz Capek,

My apologies re mess up on images will try again. I have never had any contact with Rose’s family so please lead any further investigations. I don’t have any photos from the time now I am afraid. I didn’t think to keep copies. I think we exchanged some to help the Beeton family search. My own memory of my investigation is fairly vague. I do recall having conversations with Angela Spencer Harper to see if she had any information. I don’t have a copy of Dipping into the Wells. I had a look on line yesterday and her archive is held at the Museum of English Rural Life. It would be a stretch to think there’s a photo there. Checkendon is a well documented village so there may be other sources to check, maybe even the Beeton archives for notes or sketches? Perhaps I should try and contact David to see if he retains any photos but I am not sure he is still alive.

Thank you to everyone

Roz, if you are able to amend the title of your images before sending them then I think things might be more successful. The Art Detective system keeps only one file with the same name, so I can imagine image-3 for example being overwritten each time. This problem has caused problems in the past too. Maybe relabel Beeton_1, Beeton_2 in a consecutive sequence and never use the same number more than once. I hope you can do this. Thanks, David

Roz Capek,

Thank you, David, for generously suggesting it’s not just me. I have made a mess of your site. It won’t allow me to use photos from my library or a screen shot. The only way I have not got an error message is to take a photo via the attach file option. I think there is just the second page of the first letter which is not there now so I will try and send that.

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Roz Capek,

I see what you are saying about it being overwritten but I don’t know where the image is as it occurs during the send. I will clear my settings and try again

Roz Capek,

I will have to get some support this end. So sorry

Roz, please don't worry about this - if it is any easier to send an email with attachments, please do. I used to work with Dr Marion Richards, Art Detective Manager, and if you wish to email me at david.saywell@artuk,org I'd be more than happy to pass them on to Dr Richards for you. Regards, David Saywell

Jacinto Regalado,

If there is no suitable photo of Rose to be had, I suppose Clare would be able to tell if Beeton's picture is indeed of her mother in her teens.

Louis Musgrove,

I think Rose Looker's husband might have been in 1938 -a Vicar in Sheffield-Rev H.C. Mason of St Cuthberts. Possibly??

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, that's him - well done, Louis. He was appointed Vicar of St Cuthbert's, Firvale, in early Dec 1937, and died in Oct 1946, apparently still in post; prior to that he was priest-in-charge at St Francis, Coulsdon. Henry and Rose's son Hugh was born at the very end of 1937, probably just before Henry took up his new job; but it would appear that they returned to Surrey, perhaps temporarily, for the birth of their daughter Clare in the autumn of 1939.

Roz Capek,

I notice my last photo post has overwritten earlier ones. I have taken up David’s suggestion to email them to him and asked him to pass them on in the hope it can be sorted.

I am very aware you require more robust evidence than I can provide. The Checkendon history group has been disbanded but I will approach a former member to see if they can help.

Osmund Bullock,

Following up on my post of 10/01/2023 03:12 (and Roz's reply of 09:55), would people like me to write a letter to Clare Cross (née Mason), Rose Looker's daughter?

Osmund, thank you. Although I am not the Group Leader here I believe there would be strong support for you entering into correspondence with Rose Looker's daughter, if she is agreeable. I think we are on the cusp of being able to identify the sitter with a strong degree of confidence thanks of course to the information supplied by Roz Capek, and the research that you and others have undertaken.

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Osmund, do try to contact her. She may not only prove very helpful, but she may be pleased to be apprised of all this if the sitter was indeed her mother.

Roz Capek,

I feel as though I have landed out of my depth in a programme somewhere between “fake or fortune” and “who do you think you are?” It is providing me with much thought.

I find the art antiques article which Grant draws our attention to very interesting. It is based on conversations with Peggy Beeton but seems to have been written after her death in 2000. In terms of our painting the article is ambiguous but reference to a local girl as model seems to be after 1934 when Mr Beeton moved full time to Hammonds. Our painting is 1924 ish. How old would Peggy have been then?

My aunt’s 1994 letter gives the impression that members of the family knew about the painting and were rallying round to find photos of Rose to help find it. There was only ever the sense of there being one painting though. Did the family remember it because it came out of the studio and was in a public exhibition? I personally doubt they would have seen any of the preliminary studies.

My feeling is Rose would have been painted at “Wheelers”. The art antiques article tells us a studio was set up there and used in the summer and for holidays. This would fit with the plants in our picture.

Helen 1994 says Clare suggests, “The rose of summer” as a title. It might not be correct but isn’t inconsistent with our painting.

On the Wilfred Owen Association website, ( in an article about the family I see Harold, Wilfred’s brother, “was married on 30th April 1927…and they built a house in the village of Ipsden, Rodgarden Shaw” It seems unlikely they rented “Wheelers Farm” before they were married. The time scale between getting married and building the house isn’t clear.

I am not sure if “Wheelers” and “Wheelers Farm”, mentioned by Helen are the same place but I think Helen saw Mr Beeton painting the gypsies in his “Wheelers” studio. Their paintings are therefore likely to have been completed after the marriage. I imagine Helen was a cook or similar to the Owens.

The art antiques article mentions Alan and Geneste were pacifists after the war. Could this have linked them to the Owens?

I have tried to check some of the details in Helen’s letters. I found a history of the Arlett family of rowers, fishermen and boat builders in Henley Standard article 3 July 2017 under the title, “I was no good at it, but my family have been rowing for generations.” Ernie Arlett appears to have been married to Edith Looker, “who grew up in Checkendon.” There is even a mention of New Orleans which may link to the photo sent from there that Helen (1994) says was lost in the post.

Regarding the black bungalow and dressmaker, 1994 letter. This would have been 1 Bellman’s Bungalows ( later Rooks Nests). There were a pair of black stained wooden bungalows. My husband’s parents moved into no 1 in 1953. It was known that a dressmaking business had operated from the lean to side extension. My understanding is the bungalows were originally staff accommodation for “Bellmans”. I think it would have been the side extension that was purpose built.

Helen refers to the Cox family of Stoke Row 1994. In a Checkendon History Group publication, which isn’t on line, I found: “Harry Cox - took over and ran the blacksmiths initially as part of his father’s builders business, from 1903 until 1933.” Is this a link to Helen’s mention of the blacksmith shop in her 1996 letter?

For me it seems likely that Rose was a model for Mr Beeton but her image may have been destroyed or be amongst the paintings found in his studio. In that case would the family have remembered it?

Roz Capek,

In 1994 my purpose was to please an elder aunt. I was very grateful to the Beeton family for their help but nothing should be assumed about their views on the matter. I stress I am not an artist, nor do I have any specialist art knowledge. In 1994 it was Helen’s family connections to Checkendon and the fact her cousin had lived where my husband grew up and I now lived that fascinated me. It is only now as part of this discussion that I am learning about the artist from information online and actually looking in detail at the painting. I have never seen the painting in reality.

I haven’t spotted another painting by Alan Beeton that is of the outdoors. The title suggested by Clare in Helen’s 1994 letter of “The Rose of Summer” conjures an outdoor painting. However, the art antiques appraisals site ( is clear that he never painted outdoors or sketched. I draw on this article when writing below. It’s based on conversations with his late daughter, who was herself an artist. I find the details of his modus operandi very interesting.

I have wondered what the “meaning” of the painting might be. Is she “Checkendon” renowned for being surrounded by bluebell woods? From what I have read Alan Beeton doesn’t seem to have attached meaning to his paintings ,except in “War still life.” I learn he was absorbed with technique and developed considerable skill in fabric and furniture, applying painstaking concentration to detail.

Alan Beeton is renowned for his fascination with colour, texture and light. He is also interested in the face. For me it seems he is a still life and portrait painter, or perhaps I should say, face painter.

So our painting is essentially a still life. Alan Beeton does not seem to have been someone interested in nature as such. I am imagining him arriving for his summer break at “Wheelers” and arranging his project for the holiday. A tableau is set up with what looks like yew branches as a background. These would have stayed green in good condition for some time. If he had taken a walk along the footpath from Bradley Street, where “Wheelers” is situated, towards Hammonds or the church he would have gone through the Devils Churchyard. A stand of yew, so plenty of material for his purposes. I can think that bracken grows along the footpath down to the church today so clumps were perhaps dug up and potted. Similarly foxgloves would have been abundant and could have been potted up to form the foreground, along with some bramble. The tree in the painting looks more like a couple of dead branches propped up, they may even be yew. Seeing the painting in reality might confirm.

The art antique article is clear Alan Beeton didn’t like painting children because they moved and changed in the time it took to paint them. I have thought the girl’s pose would be difficult to maintain for any length of time.

For me her clothes are not what a mature woman would wear. We are told the outfits were carefully curated by Alan so perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into them. It would be interesting to hear what a costume expert thinks. I understand why the age of the model has been questioned though.

At the end of the art antique article there is a reference to an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam museum which included a number of Alan’s paintings. This was 14 October 2014 - 15 January 2015. Silent Partners: Artist and Mannequin from function to fetish, curated by Jane Munro. There are number of reviews of the exhibition online.

I took a look at what was available on line about this exhibition. The Alan Beeton paintings included were of a lay figure or mannequin in domestic settings. “Posing” particularly caught my eye.

Is this not our girl in the woods? I have thought her hands looked oversized and awkward and her head too small for her body.

I then compared “Reposing” c1929 of the mannequin in a chair with an image called “Marguerite” c1927, where the sitter is lounging in a chair also, are Marguerite’s arms not those of the mannequin?

The art and antiques article tells us Alan used lay figures. He liked to paint things that didn’t move.

Could it be that our painting is a still life of the mannequin with the face of a local girl, possibly Rose?

Alan may have done her face as a 12/14 year old (she was born 1905) but by the time the painting was ready for exhibition she was much older. If her body is the mannequin this might explain the more mature figure seen beneath the outfit, the bust, her right hip.

The actual mannequin in Alan’s paintings was exhibited at the Fitzwilliam exhibition. It was found at the home of a relative of Alan. It may still exist for someone to compare it in person with our girl.

The art antique article mentions the family still has the sword in the pacifist painting, War still life, mentioned above. Such a family may also have notebooks and preliminary work for our painting. From these it may be possible to estimate how long our painting took to paint.

Kieran Owens 28/08/21 above posted an article 7 May 1924 from the Sheffield Daily Telegraph which seems to review our painting. It finishes by saying “…but the picture needs to be informed with some idea other than mere performance to make it entirely admirable. Alas! the girl is merely the model.” Perhaps the reviewer had a point.

What do others think?

Osmund Bullock,

I think you my be over-complicating matters, Roz, at least for our purposes, which are mainly to answer the question asked of us: can we identify the girl in the painting? I have a number of more factual points to make, but am too busy to write these up properly until Sunday at the earliest. However I must immediately correct the arithmetic in my post of 09/01/2023 18:38. If the picture were painted / set in late summer 1923 (allowing submission the RA in spring 1924) then Rose (if she) would have been nearly 18, not 17 as I stated - her 17th birthday was in early Oct 1922. I don't have any problem with our subject being of that age.

I will also be posting evidence that Alan Beeton was mainly based at Checkendon, doubtless at Wheeler's (Farm - yes, they're the same) from at latest spring 1923, and was spending significant amounts of time in the village - either at Wheeler's or his father's house Hammond's - as early as spring/summer 1920. Alan and Geneste had been married in April 1919. Wheeler's, which was on his father's estate, is less than half a mile from the main house.

I will be writing to Rose's daughter Clare Cross early next week.

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, the sitter could be 17-18. In those days, I expect girls that age, especially unmarried ones, appeared rather younger than they do now.

Osmund Bullock,

I actually thought she looked older, if anything: she has a very womanly body. She is what people used to call a "strapping lass" - strong, healthy and used to hard work, as one might expect from a working-class country girl. But I agree that she is unsophisticated and quite unconnected with matters of fashion, which might to modern eyes seem a sign of youth, but which is again quite normal given the period and her background.

I think she shows in her face and pose a wonderfully confident and self-possessed character - perhaps what attracted Beeton to her as a subject. And for what it's worth, I don't find her dress unusual for such a person at the time - the clothes and the fabric pattern are quietly pleasing to the eye, but in essence very practical.

Gallery Oldham,

Just catching up on all this info and wanted to say thank you all so much for the work you're doing on this.

Roz - thank you especially for all the thought and effort you have put into this. I appreciate you have landed in a different area from others that you may be used to, but you don't seem out of your depth at all (to repeat your words)! The painting is not on permanent display at Gallery Oldham as we change our exhibitions quite regularly but if ever you want to visit I can show it to you in our stores if it's not out. I do display it whenever I can though, as it's a much better portrayal of a woman than most of the others we have from that period. You can contact me on if you ever want to arrange this.

The invitation to visit is of course extended to any of the rest of you who have worked so hard on this. I owe you all a cup of tea as well...

Roz Capek,

Thank you, Rebecca, for inviting us all to visit the painting in stores. Obviously I hope Osmund is able to provide you with the information you need but irrespective of the outcome of this discussion I certainly hope to be able to see the painting in reality before too long.

Roz Capek,

For the record as I mentioned it earlier in this discussion, yesterday, I went through the Angela Spencer Harper photograph archive and her book Dipping into the wells at the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading University and was unable to find anything of relevance to our painting.

Roz Capek,

Further to my last comment, I have heard back from my ex Checkendon history group contact. Unfortunately he has not been able to find a photo of Rose. His enthusiasm to help caused him to research her brother, Albert’s family and he tells me relatives of his are still alive. This may be known by others here already. I won’t be following this up myself.

I have also been in touch with my three “Hague” uncles but unfortunately, they too, have been unable to find anything useful to us. Non of them can recall meeting Rose.

Osmund Bullock,

I am embarrassed to confess I've only just sent off the letter to Clare Cross (née Mason, Rose Looker's daughter), along with a photo of the painting. Fingers crossed.

Roz expressed a concern (20/01/2023 19:2) that "for me her clothes are not what a mature woman would wear ... It would be interesting to hear what a costume expert thinks". Attached below are some images of young (and older) working-class British women of the early 1920s (and just before) in patterned pinafores of a similar type, worn over a dress (often also patterned) or blouse and skirt. I don't think there's anything very unusual for someone of her background about what our young woman is wearing, though it's perfectly possible Beeton selected (or even imagined) particular combinations of fabric pattern and colour that appealed to him.

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Osmund Bullock,

Clare Cross called me a few days ago, and we had an extensive and very helpful conversation - many, many thanks to her. I'm afraid, though, that she does not think this portrait can be her mother, Rose (née) Looker. She has also emailed me several photos of Rose from the 1920s & 30s, and after looking at them I have to agree with her; I'll post them here when and if I get her permission to do so (I've just written to ask her).

Like her Aunt Helen Hague, Mrs Cross knew the family story that Rose had sat for Beeton, and has long wanted to track down such a painting if it exists. She confirmed that they believed it was called 'The Rose of Summer' or something similar, but I've failed to find mention of any work with such a title. She also had an idea it had some sort of link to 'Heythrop', but that was just a name: perhaps the village, or the big house of the neighbourhood, Heythrop Park (now an hotel). She though it might possibly have been exhibited there, or purchased by the owners at some stage.

[ Heythrop Park (aka Hall) was owned by the Brassey family from 1870 until 1922, and subsequently became a Jesuit Theological College. The last Brassey to live there was Capt Robert Brassey, MP (1875-1946), but it was only one of several houses he owned. ]

Roz Capek,

Thank you, Osmund, for being in touch with Mrs Cross. Obviously it’s disappointing she was unable to verify Rose as the model. I never had any sense that Helen didn’t think it was her sister, Rose, but I have to consider she might have been too polite to say once I presented her with the possibility. Or perhaps you see what you want to see?

Thank you for posting the photos of pinafore wearing women too.

I have looked back at my aunt’s letter which mentions photos she sent me. It’s unclear but I think they came from Claire. As Helen says, they were of an older Rose than the young woman in our painting. I recall one of Rose in a dark skirt and white/pale blouse. My memory is that the forehead was very similar. I will be interested to see if it’s one of the ones you have been sent if you get permission to post them. The painting title also comes from Claire at that time.

Your post doesn’t mention any recollection by Mrs Cross of the 1990s investigation. It would be odd if my aunt Helen didn’t share the outcome if she was confident the painting was of Rose.

My feeling is that if the Beeton family were aware of a painting called, “The Rose of Summer” in the 1990s it would have been part of the investigation. There was only the one possibility (Girl in a wood) presented to me at the time. Perhaps if it did exist it was destroyed by the artist?

I have found a photo of the Checkendon school children dated 1912 in another Checkendon History Group publication, colour edition January 2011, Checkendon a short history. There are no names but one of the girls has the low parting on the left and her hair swept across her forehead like our model. To me, she looks to be about the age Rose would have been in 1912. I am mindful of the doubts that Osmund’s work has raised but I intend to visit the Oxford History Centre, where I believe the school log books are held, to see if there is a record of the children’s names. It might even provide another lead. I think the photo is from their records and I would need their permission to post it here.

Osmund Bullock,

They're more than just doubts, Roz: I am quite certain that the girl in the photos I've seen cannot be our sitter/model. Clare Cross has been out of action for the last fortnight, but called me yesterday to say she's happy for some of the images of her mother Rose to be posted. See attached.

Number one is from the early 1920s (i.e. much the same date as our work), when she was in her mid/late teens; the next is c.1930 and the third a few years later. Re the first, they really don't resemble each other facially at all, and the hair colour/tone and style are very different. Even if we were to imagine that Beeton did not paint a good likeness (and I think the opposite is true), his subject is a much curvier and older-looking girl than Rose seems to have been in her mid-late teens: she still has a little 'puppy fat' (which she was soon to lose completely, judging by her sylph-like appearance in the other photos), but our sitter was clearly far more developed and 'womanly'. Though I've been persuading myself that the model might be only 17 or 18 (to fit Rose's age in c.1923), she was in reality probably rather older than that.

The family were certainly aware of a portrait of Rose they later referred to as 'Rose of Summer', but of course that could have been a family joke not its real title. Anyway we have failed to find evidence of the existence of such a painting; and even if it did, I no longer believe it can be our one on the grounds of the subject's very different appearance.

Louis Musgrove,

Her smock- seems to be a genuine Tartan Pattern----- Greystone--- wonder if that leads anywhere? Like a Scottish person?

Osmund Bullock,

Though there are similarities between the pattern on our sitter's pinafore and that of 'Greystone' (aka 'Burberry Grey') registered fairly recently as a tartan (, they are by no means the same design. See attached. Moreover Greystone itself is *not* a traditional Scottish tartan pattern associated with a particular clan/family - it falls within the 'fashion' category of the official Scottish Register of Tartans, where they describe it as a grey-background variant of the well-known 'Burberry Tartan' pattern ( that was introduced c.1920. In any case Greystone/Graystone is not a Scottish family name or clan, and its rare appearances in the country's records are very late, suggesting C19th immigration by a few individuals from Yorkshire where it seems to have originated.

It doesn't take long to find these things out, Louis. I do wish I could persuade you to do some of the follow-up work to your ideas yourself.

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Louis Musgrove,

Osmund---- as you say -a 1920 fashion design,which would fit with the date of this painting.Plus -in painting a Tartan fabric I am sure the artist would ,through squinted eyes,simplify a bit.
I have always thought this is not a simple gypsy girl,but a posh girl wearing an arts and crafts creation. I refer to Nina Hamnett by Roger Fry, wearing an Omega Workshop. I do not think Tartan designs were worn by ordinary english people in the 20's and 30's. My mother had a Black Watch Mess Dress,but would not wear it outside- only special occasions.
You may be surprised to learn ,that I can assure you, that I do do a lot more research than it would appear :-) .
By the way -it was nice to see you on TV again a couple of Sundays ago-Agatha Christie Hour. Cheers.L.

Osmund Bullock,

You may be right, Louis, though it is equally likely that the unknown model *was* from a very ordinary background (I don't think anyone thinks she was of Romany stock any more), but that Beeton chose to dress her in fabrics that appealed to him. Having said that, I don't consider this a tartan, old or new (the pattern doesn't even look square); and it seems perfectly possible to me that the 1920 Burberry designer took inspiration from existing checked fabric patterns that they tweaked to create a modern twist to a tartan. But this is all just speculation, as neither of us is an expert in fabric design history - and even if we were, I'm not sure it leads us anywhere very useful. The salient point is that there is no real clue to the model's identity in what she is wearing.

I'm sorry for my dig at you about further research, which was rather unkind. Pax. Yes, they show that slightly silly Christie adaptation from time to time, and in due course I may get a residual cheque for a fiver. Jobbing actors never make much even while working, and once they retire it's worse - after 45 years and perhaps a hundred or so TV credits my repeat transmission payments (for the few things that still get shown) total a couple of hundred a good year!

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