Completed Portraits: British 20th C, East of England and The Midlands: Artists and Subjects 13 Could anyone give us information about the artist ‘W. Geo McConnell’?

HSW_SMS_FA_00753
Topic: Artist

This painting is signed and dated upper right ‘W. Geo(?) McConnell/ 1921’. I can't find any other painters of that name on Art UK, but perhaps we could find out more about the artist? In any case, the title should be changed in view of the date.

Andrew Shore, Entry reviewed by Art UK

1 attachment

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The signature ‘W. Geo McConnell’ has been identified as that of artist, photographer and designer William George McConnell (1890–1954). The title has been updated from ‘Portrait of a Man in Late Edwardian Dress’ to ‘Portrait of an Unknown Man’, since the painting was found to be dated 1921.

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.

12 comments

Martin Hopkinson told us in 2018 that this work was signed and dated; however, it has since been possible to see a high-resolution image of the signature. Martin added that there is an agricultural machinery producer, McConnel Limited at Ludlow. He suggested that this might be a painting by one member of the family of another, possibly based on a photograph.
https://www.mcconnel.com/

Bill Ellson,

W.George McConnell was active in Ludlow in 1924.

The Kington Times 26 July 1924, page 6:

ARTIST'S PICTURE
During last week there has been on view at the shop window of Mr. Lethbridge's establishment, High Street, Ludlow, a beautiful oil painting by Mr. George McConnell, D.C.M., artist. the picture is a copy of the East Window of St. Lawrence's Parish Church,..

-o-o-

This appears to be Sapper (acting Lance Corporal) W.G. McConnell 25596 of 1 Field Survey Company, Royal Engineers who was gazetted for the Distinguished Conduct Medal 3 June 1918. (The attached medal index card matches the London Gazette supplement of that date.

(The agricultural equipment manufacturer did not start business until 1935.)

Osmund Bullock,

I don't think W George McConnell has any connection with McConnel [sic] Ltd, the agricultural machinery manufacturers. The company was founded in Worcestershire in 1935 by Frederic Whigham McConnel (1902-1989), a Winchester-educated entrepeneur of wealthy Scottish background, who seems to have spent some time in America in the 1920s.

William George McConnell (3 Dec 1890 - 1954) was the son of a Wolverhampton-born music teacher & piano tuner, repairer and dealer, William Hiram McConnell, who seems to have led a fairly peripatetic life - the 1911 Census (attached) shows William George (then a 20 year-old provision merchant) was born at Gravesend, Kent, his two elder siblings at Dublin and Newbury (Berks), then five younger ones at Wolverhampton, and the two youngest at Wellington & Shrewsbury (Salop). The two elder, Nora and Dorothy, were also artists - Dorothy a miniaturist (though apparently using photography) - and in an earlier census (1901) his mother Kate is also listed as an artist.

In 1939 William George was living at Kington (Hereford), where he later died, his profession is 'artist photographer designer'; he is an invalid. As Bill says, he won the DCM in 1918 while in the RE, though he later transferred to the RFC and then the fledgling RAF.

Osmund Bullock,

Though gazetted on 3rd June, his DCM citation was not published until October. See attached. It is as impressive as all of them are - the Distinguished Conduct Medal stood below only the VC for 'other ranks', and especially after the introduction of the lower Military Medal in March 1916, was awarded only for truly exceptional acts of bravery. What is interesting from our angle is what he was engaged in when he earned it - battlefield photography while under fire.

It seems he was only nominally in the RAF. After transferring to the RFC from the Sappers he was recommended for officer training; but when the RAF was created in April 1919 from the amalgamation of the RFC and the RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service), McConnell was demobilized, and his officer training cut short. However in 1923 he was retrospectively granted an honorary commission as a 2nd Lt.

1 attachment
Bill Ellson,

When did Ludlow Library & Museum Resource Centre acquire the painting?

The 1939 register describes McConnell as artist, photographer, decorator (not designer).

William George McConnell was born 3 December 1890, in or near Gravesend, Kent. His birth registration was as George William, but come the census on 5 April 1891 he was William G. and the William came first up until his death in 1954.

He married Lillie M Hurman in Ludlow in the 2nd quarter of 1924. The marriage appears to have been childless. (There are no McConnell births registered with Hurman as mother's maiden name.)

The Kington Times - 26 November 1954
Mr. G. W. McConnell
Mr. George William McConnell, The Bungalow, Stanner Road, Kington, whose death occurred at the age of 64, was a painter and decorator. He served with the Forces in the 1914-18 War. The funeral took place at Kington Cemctery last Thursday

-o-o-

The 1911 census form posted above shows that George McConnell had nine surviving siblings, so there might be a great niece or nephew still around who remembers him.

St Laurence, Ludlow has a website and a parish magazine
https://www.stlaurences.org.uk/home-section/welcome-and-parish-magazine
The church may know of the 1924 'east window' painting.


Osmund Bullock,

Thanks for correcting my misreading, Bill.

McConnell's life and art did not run smooth. He had been a professional artist before the war, and returned to it for a while afterwards. But in Feb 1925 he bought a restaurant business in Weston-super-Mare and apparently ran it with his wife; two years later he was bankrupt.

1 attachment
Jacinto Regalado,

The Art UK entry information reads "unknown acquisition method" for this picture. It does look like it was painted after a photograph.

Bill (04/02/2020), thank you. The back of the canvas was checked today and there is nothing there or on the frame that could help us. The curator has been through their records and there are no clues as to how the picture came into the collection. The local firm McConnel of Ludlow was contacted in case there was a link, but William George McConnell is not a name they are aware of (and ruled out now).

Bill Ellson,

Marion, thanks for that.
A niece of McConnell's died in Wagga Wagga, NSW in 2017 and I have asked the funeral directors to forward a message to the family (she had children and grandchildren).

The discussion asks for more info on the artist. This has been provided by Osmund and Bill on 4 February 2020. Subject to the collection and to input from group leaders, Catherine and Grant, might this discussion be ready to be closed?

Bill Ellson,

I have not received any response to my email to Wagga Wagga.
I have no opinion on closure.

The artist is William George McConnell, D.C.M. (1890-1954). He was born on 3rd December 1890, in or near Gravesend, Kent. His given names on birth registration were 'George William' but subsequent censuses, and on his death, his first forename name was recorded as William. He married Lillie M Hurman in Ludlow, Shropshire in Q2 1924 and is recorded as exhibiting one of his paintings in Ludlow in 1924. Thereafter Mr McConnell removed to Weston-Super-Mare and later to Kington in Herefordshire, where in the 1939 Register his occupation is listed as 'artist photographer designer'. He is buried in Kington Cemetery.

The sitter for this 1920s painting, which may be on a photographic base, has not been identified.

I recommend that this discussion be closed. The information provided by Osmund Bullock and Bill Ellson, and others, has been most helpful in addressing the issues raised by this discussion.