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Topic: Artist

Is this a sketch by the Glasgow artist, Alexander Mann, who settled in Berkshire?

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Thank you for contributing to this discussion, which is now closed. Unfortunately, from July 2024, Art Detective is being paused until further notice due to insufficient funding to continue running the service. All 887 discussions and more than 22,000 individual submissions remain accessible on the Art UK website, but no new comments can be accepted. This discussion may potentially be re-opened in due course.


Peter Nahum,

It could be - it does look very like Edward Stott ARA

Tamsyn Taylor,

It looks to me more like Mann that Stott, despite the fact that Stott often painted a low sun.
The feeling for the form of the landscape is Mann, and the economy with which the flock of sheep are suggested. Stott would have painted each sheep lovingly.

I believe this painting to be by Fred Hall (1860-1948) who settled in Speen, near Newbury in Berkshire, circa 1908. His daughter Barbara sold quite a lot of work from her father's studio in the 1960s and 1970s. I note that Reading Museum acquired the painting by purchase rather than gift, possibly in 1966 if my interpretation of the format of the accession number is correct. One reason for such a purchase could be that Hall had been a 'local' artist for about forty years. I think this work may well have been painted on the Berkshire Downs.

Jacinto Regalado,

All I know about Fred Hall is what is on Art UK by him. The closest I found to this picture is below:

However, in pictures including animals outdoors, the animals are better defined or less sketchy than in the Reading picture, though that does not mean he could not have painted it.

Tim Williams,

Fred Hall was my gut reaction when I first saw this post. I catalogued this work by him a few years ago:

I am however torn by Peter Nahum's suggestion of Stott - I had the pleasure of cataloguing a number of his works more recently for the same saleroom. The composition and lighting effects are very evocative of his work.

There must be information in the collection's files regarding this work since some information is recorded about its purchase in 1966.

I should have explained further why I think it is by Fred Hall. I have been buying his works since the early to mid 1970s and thus have handled more than a few. Clearly it would be preferable to see the work in person but from the images I am more than 95% happy that it is by Hall. In order to confirm, I have just phoned the person who many years ago assisted Barbara Hall (the artist's daughter) with the research into and disposal of the majority of the remaining pictures by her late father and I asked him who painted the Reading picture. Without hesitation or prompting he said 'Fred Hall 100%'. His daughter wrote a dissertation on Hall.

I should have explained further why I think it is by Fred Hall. I have been buying his works since the early to mid 1970s and thus have handled more than a few. Clearly it would be preferable to see the work in person but from the images I am more than 95% happy that it is by Hall. In order to confirm, I have just phoned the person who many years ago assisted Barbara Hall (the artist's daughter) with the research into and disposal of the majority of the remaining pictures by her late father and I asked him who painted the Reading picture. Without hesitation or prompting he said 'Fred Hall 100%'. His daughter wrote a dissertation on Hall.

The Collection have commented: 'We hold information about many local artists but none about Fred Hall. Nor do we have any works recorded as by him or acquired from anyone who might be connected with him. We find the possibility that Alexander Mann is the painter of our piece quite compelling not just because of the style/imagery but because he lived for a while at East Hagbourne and then Blewberry and we think that the farm being described may still exist on the Oxfordshire hills close to Blewberry. We have been meaning to take a road trip to check but haven’t yet. Of course, even if we can identify the farm this does not preclude Fred Hall from being the artist and I would like to see more of his oil sketches. It is also a shame that we cannot afford to have our little oil painting cleaned at the moment.'

Tim Williams,

I have another name to throw into this hat - Arthur Winter Shaw. Shaw worked extensively at Amberley, Sussex. The barns in this painting are very similar to barns found at Amberley.

Tim, thank you for your suggestion. I undertook quite a bit of research into Arthur Winter Shaw back in the 1970s, in conjunction with the artist's family and other Amberley people who knew him. I understand why you have come up with the name but in my opinion this painting isn't by him. I am not sure about Alexander Mann either but in the absence of good evidence it is difficult to arrive at a definitive conclusion. I still favour Fred Hall but sadly my contact who knew his daughter Barbara Hall well passed away recently.

This discussion began in June 2021 and the last comment was in November 2021. I would like to propose that the painting is ‘Attributed to Fred Hall (1860-1948)’. There have been other suggestions for the artist but Grant’s argument for Hall is compelling. I looked at Hall’s Royal Academy exhibits and his titles show his love of twilight. I am not suggesting the painting is any of the following but they illustrate the point: ‘The Evening Hour’ (RA 1922,; ‘The Fading Day’ (RA 1923,; ‘At Twilight’ (RA 1930, As Grant informed us, the artist’s daughter sold paintings from her father’s studio in the 1960s and 1970s and perhaps this was one of them. Hopefully Reading Museum will one day find an archival record confirming the name of the artist; it is unusual that a name has been lost for a 1966 purchase.

There are just two weeks left until Art Detective closes to further comments, of which 11 are Art UK working days, though I am working only six of them. It may be helpful to know that those days are 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 June. I will be on email for four weeks after that, until 26 July.

The collection have replied that they prefer the initial suggestion of an attribution to Alexander Mann, as he lived in Blewbury, close to the view depicted, and is known to have painted local views at the time. The painting was purchased from a South Oxfordshire man, having been recognised as a New English Art Club work by the Professor of Art at the University of Reading. Fred Hall an interesting suggestion but unlikely to have been thought significant enough at the time to have been purchased in this way.

Mann exhibited at the NEAC from Hagbourne, near Didcot, Oxfordshire (1888-90) and St Julian's Road, Streatham (1891-92). If this is an exhibited NEAC subject by him it is presumably 'Twilight' (no. 153), rather than 'Sheepfold in springtime' (no. 26), both shown in 1890.

The firmness of the attribution therefore depends on whether its 1966 'recognition' was based on express link to the NEAC (e.g. a stamp or label, even if artist name and title were missing) or just professorial opinion

Hall's one NEAC appearance is unrelated

Martin Hopkinson,

My suggestion of Mann comes from an inspection quite some time ago of the paintings owned by his family in Nunney and my work on a catalogue for the Fine Art Society , and much later for and entry in the German Dictionary of Artists published as an updating to Thieme - Becker dictionary . My parents lived close to the village and were friends of the family
It would be sensible to ask the art historian Christopher Wright for his view as he also saw the collection before me and wrote an earlier catalogue for an exhibition at the Fine Art Society
At the moment my notes on Mann are beyond access
The Pickthorn family might be able help over the exact place repesentated

Sensible suggestions but time now limited. Most useful would be to know from the collection if the reported NEAC connection is documented (i.e. hard evidence ) or just suggested, however persuasivley, by someone probably no longer around to ask why. Whether one or the other it is at least odd - if the Professor said 'Mann' at purchase - that it is currently 'Hall'.

If demonstrably shown at the NEAC (even if date uncertain) it is Mann or some third party so far unsuspected. If that leaves us - as Reading wishes - with 'attributed to Mann' then a 'More information' note should briefly mention Hall as another locally resident possibility who exhibited similar subjects (but not at NEAC)

Martin Hopkinson,

This is very annoying - as Reading was told
Mann painted many pictures of this size near Harbourne and Blewbury
There is long infomed entry on him in wikipedia - by no means always wrong
Christopher Newall 1983
My catalogue 1985
Helen Pickthorn in the Grove Dictionary of Art - grandaughter
I have never seen a Hall like this

Martin Hopkinson,

Mann moved to West Berkshire in 1887 and Blewbury in 1901. He started painting landscape with sheep in 1887

Martin Hopkinson,

My article in the German dictionary was c 2013-4

My note @26/06/2024 10:25 just quotes Mann's entry in the 1975 SBA/NEAC listing (pub Antique Collectors Club):

[1888-90] King's Holme, Hagbourne by Didcot
In the SBA list it is 'King's Holme, Hagbourne-by-Didcot' from 1889

[1891-92] Lidard, St Julian's Road, Streatham (but from '1890/1' in the SBA listing)

At the SBA he also showed from 1 Pembroke Studios, [West] Kensington, in 1893 and 1893/4

I have no view on Hall, only that it has been argued by Grant above from direct knowledge, inc. knowing family, and there is presumably a reason he is the current attribution.

Thanks Pieter. I cannot view the painting currently due to 'copyright restrictions'. As it is out of copyright I imagine it is on hold on Art UK pending updating. When I first saw the painting I thought 'Fred Hall' as I have handled quite a few over the years. I then phoned a friend of mine, a Mr Tony Withers, and without explanation from me as to the background I asked him to look at it. Within a few seconds he said Fred Hall 100%. Tony then talked me though his friendship with Hall's daughter Barbara and the access he had to Hall's remaining studio works. He bought quite a lot of them and Hall was his favourite artist. I valued his opinion not just because it was the same as mine. Sadly I cannot raise the subject with him again as Mr Withers died during the pandemic. Ultimately the Collection decides. All I can say is if it came up for sale tomorrow I would bid for it in the belief that it is by Fred Hall.

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There are many people still to thank in person, who could not be mentioned here. I will be working up to 25 July to try to resolve and update discussions that could not be closed as planned.

I’m sorry that many of you will see this message several times because you follow various groups.

With thanks again and best wishes,

Martin Hopkinson,

Fred Hall seems most likely given the evidence from the Hall family
However I am far from sure that the papers held by Mann's descendants have been fully investigated

Martin Hopkinson,

Lady Helen Pickthorn may still be alive as she married in 1951. It is a over a decade since I was last in contact with her

There is just a month, either to conclude this, or leave it open- ended.

If still at the current state of non-resolution then, the collection has already said it wishes to revert to 'Attributed to Mann', and why, without explaining why or how the current attribution became 'Hall' , For that, circumstantial local-residence reasons, and parallel 'evening'-type titles in RA works have been mentioned here. Opinion / reported past opinion here is otherwise just that, and divided.

All a note by 25 July will then need to say is that it was thought to be Mann when acquired and may be the 'Twilight' he showed at the NEAC in 1890, but Hall has also been proposed as a longstanding alternative, partly because he also lived in the locality thought to be shown.

Hello Pieter. I suggested closing this discussion with the attribution to Hall on 17th May, based on Grant's knowledge, but since then the collection have said they prefer the attribution to Mann. Martin has also added his considerable experience of Mann's work, but discussed Hall with Grant today. They have the knowledge of the styles of the two artists. It would be nice to get them together in front of the actual painting!

I think the photograph we were all working from has disappeared in error. Also the attribution on Art UK (above) is now Hall, but surely the artist was unknown when we started this discussion. It was not thought to be Mann when Martin posed the question.

Marion is away at present but will return to this one when she gets back. She will be able to advise on the best wording.