Completed Military History, Portraits: British 19th C, Portraits: British 20th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 22 Could this be Drummer Roddick? Or is this portrait related to Sir George Reid?

Topic: Artist

Neither the artist nor the sitter is known for this work and discussion on either would be welcome. The subject has been said to be Drummer Roddick (painted in action by William Skeoch Cumming), but there is no evidence for this other than anecdotal.

The relaxed style of dress may seem to be a contradiction for even a retired military man, with the deep cut inner garment and what appears to be a leather-corded garnish worn around the neck.
Suggestions welcome!

The collection note: 'The portrait has proved to be something of a mystery indeed. As Graham has rightly pointed out, this portrait has been a part of the museum for years, but who is it? That is unknown.

One line of thought is that it could relate to the site of the museum itself, the former home of the artist Sir George Reid. It may potentially be the portrait is by a fellow artist friend/student. There is a signature on the top-left corner but it is undecipherable.

Delighted to hear any suggestions as to who the artist/sitter could be – and thank you to Graham for taking up the research on this painting.'

Graham Shanks, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Edward Stone,

This painting is now titled 'Study of Drummer James Roddick (1848–1928), 92nd Gordon Highlanders, in Old Age'. It has been attributed to Walter Graham Grieve (1872–1937) and has been given the execution date 'early 20th C'. A painting description may be added in the future.

These amends will appear on the Art UK website in due course. Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Martin Hopkinson,

The signature is rather different from the usual one used by Sir George Reid, who normally included a rather large R as can be seen on many paintings feat
ured on

Martin Hopkinson,

The sitter does not seem to be the same man as painted in several portraits featured on from those by Orchardson and Chalmers of the mid 1860s, his self portrait of 1882, to the much later portraits by John Dick Bowie

Tim Williams,

Request for a close up image of the signature please?

Jade Audrey King,

The collection have allowed me to post the attached. This is the highest resolution detail of the signature we have access to.

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The signature comparisons looks convincing for Grieve (1872-1937) and I wonder if the picture is primarily a model study of an elderly man only likely to be identifiable by knowing who he used: in age and feature he is not that dissimilar to either of the bearded older men in 'The Cribbage Players' c. 1933, (which even the brief Art UK caption also notes as an example of his practice of using one model for more than one figure). Even if not the man used there they suggest it was a craggy 'type' for which he had use. Perhaps it is in a military collection because the man was an ex-soldier -as the traditional title suggests - since certainly too old let alone informal / non-uniformed for an active one and, again for dress reasons, not likely to be a senior officer.

Osmund Bullock,

Roddick cannot, alas, have been the model for the RSA's c1933 work, as he had died five years earlier - unless of course Grieve based the bearded figures on an earlier study. Nevertheless, the rest of Pieter's hypothesis, Oliver's suggested artist AND the collection's traditional sitter identification all appear to be highly likely, as Roddick was indeed an artist's model in Edinburgh, and Grieve was an Edinburgh-based artist from at least 1895 until his death in 1937.

Drummer James Roddick (1848-1928) of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders was a hero of the Battle of Kandahar in the Second Anglo–Afghan War. His funeral at Edinburgh in April 1928 occasioned a substantial obituary in The Scotsman, where they recorded that Roddick was "...a notable man in many ways. He was not only a gallant soldier and an all-round sportsman, but a man to whom many sculptors and artists in Edinburgh were greatly indebted for his co-operation as a model in connection with their artistic creations. He was, for example, a model for the statue of "Rob Roy", which is now in the Royal Scottish Museum** in Chambers Street." See attached.

Nice to see that Skeoch Cumming, the artist who many years before had painted the action for which Roddick received the DCM (though General Roberts had apparently recommended him for the VC), was at the funeral. See

**Disappointingly little of the collections of that museum's successors is so far online, but I found an old postcard of the sculpture on eBay, which I also attach. The image looks reasonably consistent with our sitter.

Oliver Perry,

Grieve's "Cribbage Players" seems in fact to be much earlier than 1933, as a painting of that name is referred to in a review of an exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy in The Times for 26 April 1920:

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Osmund Bullock,

Good find, Oliver - even from that image it looks very much like our man.

Interesting, too, that the artist who designed the tapestry was Skeoch Cumming - the same man who in 1894 painted the NAM watercolour of Roddick in action. Looking closely at the figure of Roddick in it (the watercolour), it seems to be a proper portrait of him - Cumming was an ex-soldier himself, and I imagine was determined to do him justice by portraying him accurately. It seems quite probable that Roddick posed for it, and that led, via Cumming, to his part-time career as an artist's model.

I agree that even Oliver's somewhat grainy copy image is beyond reasonable doubt the same man, so the painting identification as Roddick appears to be right. I know nothing of Grieve's practice, including whether he habitually signed studies, but if this is a study it might be something that he only signed on disposal -whether directly to the Gordon Highlanders collection or not and , if so, perhaps most probably after Roddick's death.

It's curious that Grieve's c.1933 'Cribbage Players' -also quite large (121 x 181.6 cm) as the Earl of Moray's 1920 version was reported to be - was his RSA Diploma gift. One would have thought an artist would either want such thing to be a 'prime' item, or that an institution might require it -assuming the compositions are indeed essentially the same; but that's a different story ...

Unless anyone has evidence this is not by Walter Graham Grieve (as the signature suggests) and the image is not a 'Study of DrummerJames Roddick (1848-1928), 92nd Gordon Highlanders, in old age' -as the images so far produced also suggest - can this one be ticked off?

Katharine Eustace, Sculpture,

I think Peter is right, the time has come to wind up this enquiry. Stirling work has provided an artist and a sitter for this rather good portrait, in sum:
Signed by W.G. Grieve of Drummer Roddick. How satisfactory.

I would add three passing observations
1. The lanyard round Roddick's neck appears to have a silver whistle attached. Too small, however for a fife, as in 'musket, fife and drum', lines from the ballad 'So up she went to her grandfather's chest...'; the fife and drum originally used for signalling on the field of battle.
2. He appears to be wearing a jerkin, the slashes of paint along the seam are not random or purely expressive, which might suggest that it is a sketch for the painting by Grieve entitled The Buccaneer, as recorded in the obituary - think Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.
3. Soldiers were often used as models, their physique being noticeably fitter than the rest of the population; there are records in the Royal Academy archives for their payment, and occasional problems relating to their employment.

Jade Audrey King,

The collection has been contacted about this recommendation.

Graham Shanks,

As the one who kicked this off, I am very grateful to those who have given of their time and knowledge to shed light on a mystery that has perplexed the Gordon Highlanders Museum for years.

Whilst truly appreciating what Art Detective has achieved, it is with regret that I note that a parallel approach to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery required a follow-up after two months to garner even an acknowledgement and still absolutely nothing further three weeks after that.

Re: Kate's point on the 'whistle', its not a bosun's call (i.e not a seafaring item) and somewhere in the discussion or a press-cutting produced as an attachment I'm sure I saw a reference to Roddick in later years being a 'night-watchman'. One could see why someone doing that job might have a 'policeman-type' whistle -though the tube shown is not that specific.....

Osmund Bullock,

Don't be too hard on the SNPG, Graham. Though I've never worked in such a place, I can imagine that with staff numbers often cut to the quick, time is desperately short for anything but core activities (or what are nowadays considered core activities). One might well argue about what their priorities should be, but that will doubtless have been decided way above the heads of most curatorial staff.

The truth is that this sort of research takes a huge amount of time, of which I (for one) fortunately have a good bit. I do this because I love it, and because I can - people employed by public collections seldom have that luxury, even though I know that many wish that they did. Sometimes the responses (or lack of them) from collections to requests we make are equally disappointing, but I try not to feel too aggrieved...unless, that is, it is they who actually asked for the discussion in the first place (it has happened)!

Graham Shanks,

Osmund - you are correct, of course. I would not wish my minor gripe over communications to detract from the excellent work that SNPG - and so many other organisations - undertake under such straitened circumstances.

Many thanks again to you and those others who contributed to this discussion.

The Gordon Highlanders Museum,

Thank you all to those who have taken the time to so diligently research this portrait. As somewhat of a mystery piece for us here at the museum, it is fantastic that we are able to expand and update the information we have on file. This is a great example of how a museum or gallery's collections can bring people together through discussion and engage with the object. Again, many thanks.