Completed London: Artists and Subjects, Sculpture 45 comments Could anyone identify the artist and/or the sitter in this bronze bust at the Royal Academy of Music?
Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music
There is a monogram on the base. Is this the mark of Ada Lewis?
The sitter probably had a strong connection to the Royal Academy of Music, perhaps as a pioneering composer, musician or teacher.
This discussion is now closed. This sculpture has been identified as a portrait bust of the German mezzo soprano Elena Gerhardt (1883–1961) by Albrecht Leistner (1887–1950).
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.
Perhaps someone involved with this exhibition could help?
Could this be Clara Schumann?
The bust is dated 1928, while Clara Schumann died in 1896; it seems unlikely to be of her, though I suppose a posthumous likeness is just possible.
The Ada Lewis suggested as artist defeats me at the moment. Are we talking about an amateur work by Ada Lewis, later Lewis-Hill (nee Davis), the hugely generous benefactor of the Royal Academy of Music? If so, it is an even more unlikely suggestion, as she died in 1906. See https://bit.ly/2YX0HfR.
The monogram/signature looks more like 'AT' to me than 'AL'. I don't know how he signed, but Albert Toft's work of the 20s & 30s seems similar.
an incomplete list of Toft's sculpture and exhibitions cam be found on Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture. It includes the English actress and singer Ellaline Terris of 1904, very much earlier of course
An enlarged photograph of the monogram would be of great assistance
Martin, you can find a close-up of it (which I attach) if you scroll through the images of the bust on Art UK, others of which give further views of the whole sculpture. This is normal for the sculptures now appearing on Art UK, and I am very grateful that the decision was made to do this - would that it had been possible to do the same with the signatures on our paintings.
The monogram could be AT or TA. I had looked at this bust before, but what the face reminded me of was Gertrude Stein, which makes little or no sense in the context of the Royal Academy of Music. For what it's worth, here is Stein c. 1928:
From what I can find online, Toft does not appear to have used a monogram but "Albert Toft," though potentially not always.
Too much hair for Gertrude Stein, I think: look at the side view (attached 1).
I agree that Toft's signature seems to be generally in full, though the form varies. Could he, I wonder, have briefly experimented with a monogram in the 1920s? Some of his signatures play around with a combined top-stroke of 't' and 'T' – see attached 2 for examples from 1904, 1913 & 1938. And there are hints of a liking for bold horizontal flourishes to letters in his relief of Henry Irving (attached 3) that remind me of the bottom of the 'T' on our one. I admit it's unlikely, though.
A Toft bust from 1925 for comparison: https://bit.ly/2yYPRLK. A closely-related one held by the Garrick Club is identified as Sir Seymour Hicks: https://bit.ly/2TvlExp. Unfortunately the latter is once again signed in full, so I fear the Toft idea is pretty much dead in the water.
I will return to the RA catalogues and look for other possible sculptors who exhibited at the right time.
Marion, is there a small inscription on the front of the pedestal, or are those scratches or damage?
Doh!!! Please ignore that stupid question. I have just realised that it is the monogram!!!
That's the monogram and date we're already looking at - it's on the front, not the back. It's clearer if you look at the larger images on Art UK, but I attach a cropped and slightly enlarged version anyway.
Kieran, I sometimes think we must be twins separated at birth.
I suppose it's conceivable, albeit unlikely, that the initials are those of the subject as opposed to those of the sculptor.
And what is the basis for stating the artist was possibly Ada Lewis? Regardless of whether or not she made this bust, who was she?
See my first post above, Jacinto - I, too, would love to know. Jade?
Is there any certainty that the sculptor is British?
A knowledgeable friend has suggested the mezzo-soprano Elena Gerhardt (1883-1961). If you search for images of her there is a marked resemblance and the date would be about right.
This looks very plausible to me, James. Elena must have had a relationship with the RAM, as they have a lieder prize named after her. Attached is composite with two earlier profile(ish) images of her from the Library of Congress collection (https://bit.ly/2H7Dt0w) that looks promising. In the second (c.1920-25) it is encouraging to see she has started sweeping her hair back hard into a bun.
If it is her, then Martin’s query about the nationality of the sculptor is very relevant – in 1928 Gerhardt was based in Germany. She was then aged 45.
And here’s a much better comparison with a profile photo in the RAM collection – date is unknown, but probably rather earlier than the 1954 autograph date. Note especially the double wave in her hair above the ear, and the shape of the bun.
Sorry, I have to add another profile image just found to the last comparison - it's of closer date (c.1925?), and from the RAM again.
Very convincing Osmund. As far as the sitter is concerned I am tempted to say mystery solved!
And finally a more frontal one of known 1932 date (again from the NAM collection https://bit.ly/2Z4bZDl)
Should it turn out that this bust is of Elena Gerhardt, it might be worth noting that although, as Osmund has mentioned above, she was based in Germany in 1928, she appeared in London several times during that year, and especially at the Queen's Hall, in November of that year, for a series of four Schubert Centenary concerts. During that same year she recorded for HMV the Schubert Centenary album consisting of seven 12" and one 10" records, containing eight items from "Winterreise", and ten other songs. A decent biographical outline of her life can be found here:
She moved to London after the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1934, and took up a teaching position at the Guildhall School of Music, becoming a British citizen after the end of the Second World War. In 1953, Methuen published her autobiography, entitled "Recital". She died at her home in Hampstead, aged 77, in January 1961.
Well, at least this is a 90-year-old bust with a lost identity, but there's one listed as "early 21st century" at St Hugh's College in Oxford which has also become an "unknown" person:
I find this phenomenon quite curious, to put it that way.
Should we be looking for Neue Sachlichkeit sculptor? The method of the signature and the form of lettering seems more likely to be German
A colleague has suggested considering Albrecht Leistner (1887–1950) as the artist. His works include a bronze head of Richard Wagner, 1911; marble bust of Brahms, 1926; bronze bust of Beethoven, 1927; bronze bust of organist and choirmaster Karl Straube, 1928; marble bust of tenor Ludwig Wüllner, 1930.
Leistner sculptures at the Museen Thuringen (photos of them - possibly the sculptures were destroyed).
Leistner on Europeana:
Wikipedia list of 20th-century German sculptors:
It would be good if someone could find a photo of Leistner's signature
Thank you to Andrew Shore for these links: the first is not on a sculpture, but Leistner does seem to use the A and L in the same way, notably in the second example.
This is very convincing:
I am sure that Andrew Shore is correct
A 1919 drawing by Leistner (attached) shows a similar treatment of the hair and the placid, thought-filled facial expression. This might even be a drawing of Eva Gerhardt.
Also, both singer and artist were based in Leipzig and held similar anti-Nazi views, as a consequence of which most of Leistner's works were destroyed in 1940. They most likely knew each other up to the period of Gerhardt's leaving permanently for England.
Finally, the attached monogram, from a rather risqué engraving/etching by Leistner from 1931 (censored for the sake of decorum!), must surely clinch the deal.
It is from this collection of works that were auctioned in 2015:
Other drawings in the collection have variations of this monogram.
So while the artist is Albrecht Leistner, is the sitter Gerhardt? Given the Leipzig connection, this could be likely.
And see attached, just by way of final comparison.....
Marion, for Leistner's biographical details, you could add that he was a painter, graphic artist and sculptor; was a founding member of the Leipzig Secession / Leipziger Sezession (1910 - 1927); and was a member of the Deutscher Künstlerbund in Weimar. See the following for context:
Of the latter, here is a short extract from the online description:
"In 1936 the exhibition (of the Deutsche Kuenstlerbund / Association of German Artists (c.1905 - 1936)) in Hamburg was closed by the National Socialists and the Deutscher Künstlerbund was closed at the same time. Until then the general public had been offered a remarkable spectrum of 20 exhibitions on a high artistic level. Nearly all German artists who occupied a high rank in the artistic world within the first three decades of the last century were members of the Deutscher Künstlerbund and they made use of the platform to display their artistic ideas undisturbed by any governmental interference. The boost and the breakthrough of modern art is closely connected to the history of the Deutscher Künstlerbund."
For an additional verification, attached is a composite photo of a bust of the actor Lothar Körner by Albrecht Leister, on the side of which is the date of 1918 and his clear monogram, the same as on this discussion's work.
Marion, please thank your colleague for their vital contribution to this discussion.
Marion, was there any decision made about your Leistner attribution and the suggested comparison of the monogram signatures as posted above?
Here is link to what seems to be the plaster version of the bust in the Stadtgeschichtliche Museum in Leipzig: https://bit.ly/2xfYgx7
The attached composite would appear to show that they are an identical match.
Kieran, thank you for the reminder. We should have an answer soon.
Well done, Andrea - brilliant find. QED.
Circumstantially the case was strong for Elena Gerhardt, and that for Leistner all but certain once versions of the same monogram were found by Marion and Kieran. As well as what we had, I did find mention in Gerhardt's autobiography 'Recital' of two other Leistner sitters, Julius Klengel and Ludwig Wüllner (not Mullner) - the latter's marble bust is dated to 1930, the former's (in bronze) to 1921. But there is nothing there about Leistner himself or the portrait. I was also slightly worried about the bust's profile, which isn't wholly convincing (especially the nose - https://bit.ly/2VMKWKx). In truth I don't think it's an outstanding likeness - I suppose the sculptor felt impelled to flatter.
I am rather puzzled that the RAM didn't know the identity of a bust they apparently acquired as late as 2003, especially as they have prize named after her!
As is common nowadays, the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum invite anyone who knows more to write to them - I imagine they'd be interested to know about a bronze version: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am much impressed, and I expect Leipzig will be too: even more so if anyone has the German to do it that way! Time the RAM also put a label on it inside (since I expect hollow cast) to make sure they don't forget who it is - or who by - again!
Osmund, thanks for posting an email address for the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig. I'll write to them.
Thank you everyone for all this fantastic research. We are very grateful to Kieran, Marion, Andrew Shore and others who have contributed and uncovered this compelling identification. We will add this to our collections database so the work is now properly identified and attributed. Just in answer to Osmund’s point about date of acquisition. We have some time ago changed our system to record ‘object no’ rather than ‘acquisition no’. This piece was not acquired in 2003 – that was the year it was catalogued. The Academy was founded in 1822 but we have only had a Museum from 2001 and there was a large number of items that belonged to the institution that needed to be catalogued. Predecessors obviously only got to this object and put it on the system in 2003.
I don’t know why there is any sort of note about Ada Lewis on the record – it would seem to the current Museum team that there is no basis for this but it may have been anecdotal from a professor or other staff at the institution from many years ago. Even in our system it has a question mark. We have a portrait of Ada Lewis on loan and you can see how someone may have thought the bust showed similarities, together with the monogram ‘AL’. https://www.ram.ac.uk/museum/item/28338
This is what we have noted in the portrait record: The Ada Lewis Scholarships were founded by Ada Lewis in July 1901 and supported such musicians as Sir John Barbirolli and Dame Moura Lympany for their training at the Academy. She also presented one of the Academy's treasures, the 'Habaneck' violin by Stradivarius, c1734. The sister of the composer Hope Temple, Mrs Lewis-Hill herself played the cello and violin.
Thanks again for a wonderful combined detective effort.
This discussion can now be wound up, as this handsome portrait bust with its strong red patina – I particularly like the cut-away torso and the vestigial collar – is now happily attributed. From an almost hopeless position, thanks to interventions from James Trollope’s knowledgeable friend, and Marion Richards’ equally knowledgeable colleague, this rapidly became an open and shut case. Osmund Bullock and Kieran Owens pulled together biographical detail that helped confirm the attributions, and finally the plaster was found by Andrea Kollman in the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum, Leipzig.
Sitter or subject: Elena Gerhardt (1883–1961), mezzo-soprano
The sculptor: Albrecht Leistner (1887–1950) signed with a monogram and dated 1928
A very satisfactory conclusion, and, most importantly, two figures from the diaspora suffered in the mid-Twentieth Century, a diaspora which gave so much to this country, regain their place in history. Thanks to Art UK and all the sleuths on Art Detective, they should not easily lose their identities again.
Marion will kindly inform the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum, Leipzig of the existence of the bronze at the Royal Academy of Music.
Thank you all.