Completed Military History, Portraits: British 20th C 98 Could we identify the artist of this and two other portraits on Art UK that appear to have the same signature?

NY_GHM_14
Topic: Artist

This portrait is signed top right with a signature not unlike that of Ormesby Hall's ‘Ruth Constance Dorrien Knight (1893–1983), Mrs James Pennyman’ and the Royal Air Force Museum’s ‘Portrait of an Unidentified Man in a Grey Suit (‘Blue Eyes’)'.

https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/ruth-constance-dorrien-knight-18931983-mrs-james-pennyman-167442/view_as/grid/search/works_auto:mrs-james-pennyman/page/1

https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/portrait-of-an-unidentified-man-in-a-grey-suit-blue-eyes-136135/search/collections:royal-air-force-museum/sort_by/date_earliest/order/asc/page/19

Art UK adds: A close-up image of this portrait's signature is attached, but there will probably be records of and newspaper reports on these commissions, whose sitters are all connected to the British Armed Forces. The Green Howards Regimental Museum has no more information about this work. Art UK has not been able to trace the copyright holder(s).

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. Arthur George Mills (1907–1996) has been identified as the artist of this portrait of Brigadier George W. Eden, CBE, and of several other portraits in public collections. The date of this portrait has been adjusted to c.1965.

Permission to update the other portrait records has been sought from all the collections concerned and in some cases received already. There is a checklist at the end of the discussion.

Thank you to all those who contributed to this discussion. To those viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.

97 comments

Andy Mabbett,

When was this painted? The last three characters could be an apostrophe and two digits - perhaps '66, if the painting marks the end of the sitters service.

Martin Hopkinson,

According to the Green Howards, it was presented to the sitter when he relinquished his role as Colonel of the Regiment in 1965 - but the date suggests that this was after he relinquished his role as the date on the picture as Andy suggests is certainly 66

Osmund Bullock,

Either the main Art UK website has crashed or my elderly computer has - unable to access any artworks or venues at the moment, either via the links on AD or direct.

Kieran Owens,

The website of the Yorkshire Regiment (19th Regiment of Foot) carries the following biographical note on this portrait's sitter:

"George Wilfred Eden was born on 3 Aug 1903, the first Colonel of the Green Howards to be born in the 20th Century. He was the son of Lt-Col John Henry Eden of West Auckland, Co Durham, and Lady Florence Lowry-Corry, daughter of the 4th Earl of Belmore. His father had served in the 19th Regiment and was Chief Constable of County Durham from 1892 to 1902. George was educated at Charterhouse and after being commissioned into the 19th served in Waziristan in 1937. He was wounded in WW2 and after the war was Brigadier of HQ Southern Command from 1949 to 1955. From 1955 to 1957 he was ADC to Queen Elizabeth, during which time he was also Director of Pioneers and Labour. He was appointed Colonel of the Green Howards in 1959 and awarded the Order of St Olav of Norway in 1963. He relinquished the colonelcy of the regiment in 1965. He died on 22 Jan 1986."

In 1946, Eden married Katherine Margaret Dorothy Good, M.B.E., daughter of Rev. Edward Henry Good, Chaplain, R.N..

The attached composite shows the likelihood that the portrait was painted from the 1959 photograph of Eden, the latter probably taken at the time of his promotion, on the 1st November of that year, to regimental Colonel, though not showing, as the portrait does, his 1963-awarded Order of St Olav of Norway. This suggestion is possibly confirmed or at least made more plausible by the fact that the painting of Colonel James B. Worsley Pennyman (1883–1961), in the same collection by the same artist, dated 1958, is described by the National Trust as having been painted from a portrait photograph:

https://bit.ly/2UQH0EA

Additionally, the signature by the same artist on the portraits at Ormsby Hall of James B. Worsley Pennyman and of Mrs James Pennyman, where dates are included, clearly shows that date '66 as suggested above, is in fact the last two letters of a name.

Marion, if you could post a hi-res image of the signatures on the two Pennyman portraits, perhaps the name will be more clearly readable.

Kieran Owens,

Martin, a reasonable search of the British Newspaper Archive and Newspapers.com returns no references to any of the Pennyman or Eden portraits for the years 1957 through to 1968.

E Jones,

in "History of the Green Howard's" by Geoffrey Powell there's a photograph of Brigadier Eden.

I had been wondering whether it would have been possible that painting was based on this image as there are distinct similarities.

Although, it does look like there have been more honours/added to the painting on his chest.

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Osmund Bullock,

Here is a composite of all three signatures at somewhat higher-res, with some tweaking for clarity: #1 is from the Green Howards' portrait of Col. Eden, #2 from Mrs Pennyman's at Ormesby [sic], and #3 from the unknown man at the RAF Museum. I don't have one from Col. James Pennyman's, but it looks like it might be even less clear than the others.

I agree with Kieran that the supposed date on Eden's is more likely to be letters (& even if it were a date it could easily be '64' rather than '66'). Assuming all are indeed by the same person, which seems highly likely, I also concur with his evidenced suggestion that the artist probably worked largely from a photograph.

The link to Col. Pennyman's portrait on NT Collections (where the photographic origin is mentioned) is here: https://bit.ly/2VH5rc7

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Osmund Bullock,

Well done, E. Jones, that's a perfect match; the photographic source for our portrait would now seem to be beyond doubt.

Kieran Owens,

It would appear that the photograph discovered by E. Jones is from the same session (from 1959) as is the one, with hat, posted by me earlier, in the composite including the post-1963 portrait. As he observes, the medal row seems different. As I originally pointed out, the additional medal in the latter work is that of Commander of the Order of St Olav of Norway, which he received in 1963. The Norfolk-born King Olav of Norway was the Colonel-in-Chief of the Green Howards and had, the previous year, in October 1962, undertaken a State Visit to the UK, during which Brigadier Eden and his wife had been guests at, at least, one banquet in Scotland. Eden's military CBE was awarded in 1952. A composite of the three images is attached.

Perhaps also unnoticed above is the earlier link to the National Trust collection's portrait of Col. Pennyman.

As mentioned in Peter Marson's "Belmore: The Lowry Corrys of Castle Coole, 1646-1913" (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2007), a memoir written by Brigadier Eden is held in the Castle Coole archives. (His mother was Lady Florence Lowry Corry). It could be that some reference to his portrait and its creator is to be found within that work.

Finally, as Martin reported above, according to the Green Howards, the portrait was presented to the sitter when he relinquished his role as Colonel of the Regiment in 1965. Could a simple examination of the Regiment's account books for the years 1963, 1964 and 1965 reveal the name of the artist, who must have been paid for his work? If this name could be discovered, it would simultaneously resolve the identity of whoever painted the three Pennyman portraits at Ormesby Hall.

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Osmund Bullock,

Naturally your earlier link was noticed, Kieran - but it goes to the Art UK listing for Col. Perryman's portrait, not to its entry on the NT Collections site. Since the latter is where the important point you spotted - its photographic origin - is mentioned, and it is a bit harder to find, it seemed worthwhile to give the link to it.

The two photos may well be from the same photo session, though I can't see it matters much. What does matter is that while yours is close in appearance to our portrait, the one found by E. Jones is identical in every respect (bar the medals). That is why I originally qualified my agreement with 'probably' and 'largely', but I'm now happy to say it's *definitely* based on a/the photograph.

Kieran Owens,

Osmund, I stand humbly corrected. Your link to the NT site is the more appropriate one.

As there are now four portraits identified as being most likely by the same artist, the posting by Marion of hi-res images of each signature might quickly help in deciphering the artist's name. It might also be worth checking the back of each of the Ormesby Hall's and the Green Howards' works to see if there are any labels etc. that might usefully lead to a definite identification.

Martin Holman,

There is a portrait of Lt General Sir Oliver Leese. Who was 8th Army Commander in Italy (my father was there).

You should find the same signature and the artist is L Mills.

I know no more, and hope this is helpful.

Osmund Bullock,

Immensely so, Mr Holman. Here is the portrait of Sir Oliver Leese referred to https://bit.ly/2DLHZjK, and the signature looks a good match to me (albeit a bit neater and more legible). See attached comparison with our three.

The portrait of Sir Oliver was initially presented to him by the regiment on his retirement in early 1963, but he seems to have given it straight back again for the museum. See attached story from the Birmingham Daily Post - the portrait is mentioned, but not the artist, alas. I think it is more likely to date from near the date of first presentation rather than c.1955 - but perhaps again there is a photographic original that is earlier.

Can anyone throw any light on the identity of "L. Mills"? He/she was not a member of the Royal Soc. of Portrait Painters, nor does (s)he seem to have exhibited at the R.A. 1945-65.

Jacinto Regalado,

It certainly looks like a Mills, but are we certain it is an L. Mills? The "L" is not evident in those signatures, not to my eye. There are some other more or less contemporary portraits by an Arthur Mills on Art UK with a similar style, as well as one by an Arthur George Mills.

Kieran Owens,

Except that the visible signatures on the works on ArtUK by Arthur Mills and Arthur George Mills are nothing like those on Osmund's most recent composite.

Jacinto Regalado,

I suspect the maker of the four portraits with similar "Mills" signatures was not a proper painter but rather someone who "transcribed" photographs into rather waxen and relatively artificial pictures more akin to coloured illustrations.

Osmund Bullock,

I am not quite as dismissive as you, Jacinto, on the de facto merits (or lack of them) of artists who base portraits on photographs. Though the work under discussion, and those of the Perrymans, are rather as you describe, that of General Leese has (to my eye) much to commend it. Many good portraitists use photography as an aid, and have done so since it was invented - and of course posthumous portraits, necessarily based on earlier likenesses, have a much longer and respectable history; in fact you can argue that any repetition / duplication of a portrait by an artist or his studio is essentially doing the same thing. As long as the process involved is not primarily a mechanical one - and I may be wrong, but I don't feel that is the case here - I think likening them to coloured illustrations is going too far. But then, as often, I am probably playing devil's advocate here - I can well see myself arguing from the opposite corner!

Jacinto Regalado,

The problem, Osmund, is not working after a photograph, per se. I would hardly, for instance, dismiss Bernini's lost bust of Charles I after the triple portrait by van Dyck. The problem is we are dealing with a decidedly workmanlike painter, not to say a hack. I agree the portrait of Leese is better than the other three, but its merit is more relative than anything else.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, as they each appear to show the same artist's signature, progress might be more speedily achieved if the backs of these five portraits could be examined for any framers labels or other as yet unrecorded details. Is there any possibility of requesting such images?

1. Brigadier George W. Eden - This discussion
2. James B. Worsley Pennyman - https://bit.ly/2V7HC8W
3. Ruth Pennyman - https://bit.ly/2DQbDnW
4. Man in a Grey Suit ('Blue Eyes') - https://bit.ly/2JoNU1B
5. Sir Oliver Leese - https://bit.ly/2VgHetE

Martin Hopkinson,

If it is by the same artist, it must be a very doubtful attribution , if A W Mills died in 1940

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, the Arthur Wallis Mills attribution for the Mount Edgcumbes is quite wrong. The portrait image (clearly also based on a photo) is correctly stated as showing the 6th Earl and Countess. That took me a while to be certain of, as the NPG has a photo called the 5th Earl that is in fact the 6th (see https://bit.ly/2WxGNb2 & https://bit.ly/2JnE9B6); the 5th Earl had a big moustache, and later beard throughout his adult life - see https://bit.ly/2vIXJzo and attachments.

The portrait (could we have a close-up of the signature/date, please?) may or may not be connected with a coronation - if so it could only be the 1953 one; but the important point is that as the 6th Earl (1873–1965) did not inherit until 1944 it cannot be by AW Mills (mainly a cartoonist and book illustrator, with some landscape watercolours), who as Martin notes died in 1940 (5 Apr). [Sorry, some overlap with Jacinto there]

In fact I now have very strong evidence that all the portraits with the cursive 'Mills' signature - including the one under discussion - *are* in fact the work of the previously-mentioned Arthur George Mills (1907-1996), who for reasons unknown (though I do have a theory) sometimes signed thus at the top of the canvas, and sometimes in block capitals at the bottom. The 'L' initial associated with the portrait of General Leese is erroneous, and along with the signature discrepancy has led us up the garden path. More shortly.

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Jacinto Regalado,

It was hiding in plain sight: the Mount Edgcumbe portrait, which is at Mount Edgcumbe House, is officially listed on Art UK as "6th Earl and Countess of Mount Edgcumbe in Coronation Robes." This means it dates from ca. 1953, even if the earl looks remarkably well for 80.

Jacinto Regalado,

Osmund will no doubt enlighten us, but Mills may have used the cursive signature for portraits after photographs, and a signature in block letters for portraits from life.

Jacinto Regalado,

The portrait of Graham Kerr by Arthur George Mills on Art UK, signed with block letters, may include a date after the signature at upper left. It is very similar to a 1935 photograph of the subject:

https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/sir-john-graham-kerr-18691957-regius-professor-of-zoology-at-the-university-of-glasgow-138765

https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw51632/Sir-John-Graham-Kerr?LinkID=mp55494&role=sit&rNo=1

This suggests it is a relatively early work, and Mills may have changed his signature subsequently.

Martin Hopkinson,

The portrait of Graham Kerr is very definitely dated 1950. There may well be more information in the files of the Hunterian Art Gallery on this painting. I was the curator responsible for it until 1997. It is quite possible, however, that Mills was asked c. 1949-50 to work from an earlier photograph as Kerr was in his early 80s in 1950

Osmund Bullock,

Despite its description I'm not absolutely certain that the Mt Edgcumbe double portrait necessarily relates to the Coronation (though it may) - it could also just be a portrait copying a photograph that celebrated the 6th Earl's admission to the House of Lords in 1944, when he was 71 (and his wife 67). It does look to be dated 1955, though (Thanks, Marion).

The Sir James Fletcher portrait is in fact one of the two pieces of evidence that 'cursive Mills' is actually Arthur George Mills. If you look very carefully at the top right you can just see the bottom half of what looks like the familiar cursive signature. See attachment 1. I have emailed the curator of the Fletcher Collection to see if they can provide a fuller image of it, and also asking if their knowledge of the artist's identity is independent of the signature, or just assumed from it. I'll pass on any reply.

The John Graham Kerr portrait is also actually dated 1950, though it may well be after a much earlier photograph. See attachment 2. So we have two 1950 portraits with two very different signatures, but both apparently by the same man - but it's interesting that the Kerr signature is just the surname, as in the cursive version, and is also at the top - all the later 'block capitals' versions have first name as well as surname, and are found at the bottom.

[Sorry, much overlap with Martin - things are moving very fast now!]

Osmund Bullock,

It had been nagging at me for some time how alike the works attributed to Arthur MIlls active 1950s–1967 and Arthur George MIlls b.1907 (who are the same man), on Art UK and elsewhere, are to the work of 'cursive Mills'. See https://bit.ly/2JovazB & https://bit.ly/2VW4r48. This is evident in period, style, backgrounds, probable photographic origin, and often in smallish canvas sizes (well under 30x25 in). To get around the different signatures, I wondered if AGM had a collaborator, perhaps a son, but could get nowhere with that.

However, while working on it at the British Newspaper Archive website, the second piece of evidence for A G Mills emerged. Attached is an image from The Sketch the day after the 1953 Coronation, a double-page spread showing portraits of major participants. Though by different painters, they were probably all based on photographs - the one of Churchill is from the iconic 1941 photo by Yousuf Karsh. One of them, of the Duke of Norfolk, is by 'Arthur G Mills' - and if you zoom in you can see nestling in the top right corner, again only part-visible, what must surely be the same cursive Mills signature.

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Jacinto Regalado,

The date on the coronation portrait looks more like 1956 than 1955 to me, but that is a minor point. The Graham Kerr portrait dated 1950 is clearly from a much earlier photograph, ca. 1935 (see above link to his photo in the NPG). I assume the portraits signed with first and surname in block letters at the bottom that Osmund refers to are the three listed under "Arthur Mills" on Art UK, which are similar in style to those with the cursive Mills-only signature.

Jacinto Regalado,

It would appear Mills specialised in portraits after photographs, which were no doubt cheaper and more convenient than portraits from life. However, based on rather limited evidence, I suspect his talents were better suited to poster or graphic design work, which would explain why his "transcribed" portraits have the feel of illustrations. They are certainly no more than competent, and I'm surprised that at least some of his clients would settle for such pedestrian work.

Antoinette Gordon,

May I refer back to the RAF Museum's portrait of an Unidentified Man in a Grey Suit ("Blue Eyes") with the mystery signature? It may be of interest to note that the tie appears to be that of the Fellowship of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Perhaps RAeS records might help to identify Sitter and Painter?

Jacinto Regalado,

The RAF picture ("Blue Eyes") is a loan from the Royal Aero Club Trust.

Jacinto Regalado,

But why would a portrait of an unidentified man interest the RAF?

Kieran Owens,

The 1939 Register lists an Arthur G. Mills in Hampstead as having been born on the 23rd May 1907, and as being single, a commercial artist and art teacher, and acting as an A.R.P stretcher bearer.

A search of the web reveals many commercial art posters, especially for health and safety topics, that are credited to Arthur George Mills, born in 1907. These might reflect his earlier commercial works if our painter in the same man as was listed as a commercial artist in the 1939 Register. If this is the case, it might explain why some of the portraits on the ArtUK site and elsewhere do have a certain illustrative feel and colouring about them.

http://www.gcrauctions.com/sale193/lot391.html

https://vads.ac.uk/large.php?uid=33650&sos=0

https://paulsposterproject.rennart.co.uk/page/12

https://paulsposterproject.rennart.co.uk/post/170414571090/arthur-g-mills-rospa-1940a/amp

The Northampton Mercury of Friday 18th December 1953 has a Page 2 mention of an exhibition within which was a portrait of the Northampton footwear manufacturer Norman Barrett by Arthur G. Mills. It states that Barrett did not sit for the picture as the artist worked from a photograph. The exhibition comprised of twenty-six pictures, described in the catalogue as "Men of Free Enterprise", nine of which were by Mills. Among them was a painting of Lord Luke, the Bovril chief. Lord Luke was Ian Lawson Johnston, 2nd Baron Luke, KCVO, TD, DL, JP, (7th June 1905 – 25th May 1996).

Two and a half years later, the Western Mail, of Friday 1st June 1956, carried the following report:

"The latest South Wales businessman to join the gallery of free enterprisers is Mr. John Morgan, chairman of the Cardiff building firm named after him. His portrait, painted by Arthur G. Mills, is included in the Hans Galleries' exhibition of "men of free enterprise." The gallery is the idea of Mr. Godfrey Hayman, who organised the first exhibition during the Festival of Britain in 1951. It was an outstanding success and the series looks like going on indefinitely."

In 1951, the Hans Gallery was located at 40, Duke Street, Piccadilly.

Regarding the portrait of the Duke of Norfolk that Osmund has commented on above, the next page of that issue of The Sketch reveals that all of the portraits featured on the 'Portraits for Posterity' two-page spread were on view during Coronation Week at the Hans Galleries, on Duke Street.

On Saturday 31st May 1958, the Illustrated London News reported the following:

"A Portrait of Lord Nuffield Presented to the R.A.C..........The painting is by Mr. Arthur Mills."

As already satisfactorily suggested, the attached composite shows that the artist seems to have worked off of an existing photograph.

The Western Mail of Thursday 12th March 1959 reported on another portrait by Arthur G. Mills, again shown at the Hans Gallery, of the Welsh businessman Alfred J. Nicholas, of Blackwood, managing director of South Wales Switchgear Ltd.. It stated that the portrait was executed after one sitting and "a careful study of many photographs by the artist."

In 1967, the Royal Academy of Music commissioned from Arthur G. Mills a portrait of Major General Richard L. Bond CB CBE DSO MC HonFRAM.

https://www.ram.ac.uk/museum/item/23461

Country Life magazine (Vol 158, 1975) carried an ad for Arthur Mills' services, a part of which read "Fine Quality Portraiture in Oils by Arthur Mills, associated with the famous Hans Galleries of London for 25 years. Recent commissions have included His Highness Sheihk (sic) Zayed."



Arthur George Mills' death registration in 1996 give his birth as occurring on the 23rd April 1907, rather than than in May, as per the 1939 Register. However, FreeBMD only shows that one Arthur G. or Arthur George Mills was born in that period, in Hampstead, London. His death is registered in the district of Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

He is possibly the same Arthur George Mills (1907 - 1996) that is buried in Ocklynge Cemetery, Eastbourne, with his several brothers and sisters.

Osmund Bullock,

Jacinto, I understand the RAF Museum is currently looking after the whole of the Royal Aero Club's art and memorabilia collection - most of it is in storage, even if shown on the Art UK.

Antoinette, are you sure about the tie? It would be interesting if so - do you have a link to an image of it? I've been trying to identify it for a while, and to me the repeated motif looks like a Latin (i.e. Christian) cross (see attached detail).

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Jacinto Regalado,

For what it may be worth, Arthur Mills does not appear in the Artnet artist database.

Osmund Bullock,

In the 1939 Register Arthur George Mills described himself as a 'Commercial Artist' & 'Art Teacher'. He was an ARP stretcher bearer during WWII, but also meanwhile produced quite a number of posters of interesting contemporary design - see https://bit.ly/2H8oGTT. He continued with poster design for a while afterwards, exhibited one village landscape at the RA in 1946 (the only time), then seems to have moved on to portraits.

Along with a number of other competent but uninspiring artists, he formed an association with the Hans Gallery in the West End. (Here are two adverts of the Gallery's from 1953: https://bit.ly/2vGTIM7). The man who ran it, Godfrey Hayman (who may have been a portraitist himself), began in 1951 a highly-successful programme offering to large companies portraits of their executives, "men of free enterprise", often from photos and probably at low prices; five years later "several hundred" were said to be adorning board rooms up and down the country, and many seem to have been by Mills. Attached are three more stories from the BNA relating to works by him, two of them detailing the Hans Gallery's involvement in the process. This was business, not art, and clearly a good one for a while.

Some Hans Gallery portraits may even have been ordered speculatively, and displayed there in the hope of attracting a buyer; I rather think the 'Coronation' group was such - certainly I don't believe the Duke of Norfolk had anything to do with his.

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, Kieran, almost exact duplication of your information.

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, commercial artist seems quite apt. There is something "processed" or "tinned" about his portraits, which were evidently produced according to a more or less mechanical or rote formula.

Jacinto Regalado,

And Osmund, the tie in the "Blue Eyes" portrait does not match any current RAeS tie pattern, though I suppose it might conceivably represent an older one no longer in use.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, I saw it didn't match any current ones, hence my querying it with Antoinette - but I thought it possible she might have seen an older pattern...though I can't imagine why the RAeS would have used Latin crosses (if that's what they are).

I think the pedestrian nature of the portraits, Jacinto, and their acceptability, has much to do with the artistic tastes of the British upper-middle class in the 50s, early 60s and beyond, coupled with their lack of money. It is difficult for those who did not live through it to understand just how dull, grey and broke the country and most of its inhabitants were then; and how that class clutched desperately at anything that was redolent of their long-lost, more comfortable pre-war life. In any case, the majority of Mills's portrait work seems to have been the result of commissions by third parties, and corporate/regimental tastes were then as stultifying as personal ones. What was wanted (as well as a low price) was a picture in what they saw as 'traditional' style - none of your modern nonsense here, thank you - and something that their friends or colleagues thought looked reasonably like them. That was the beginning and end of art appreciation for most, I'm afraid.

Jacinto Regalado,

I thought the cross-like motif could be an airplane, but the wings would seem too short for one.

As for these portraits by Mills, and no doubt others like him, their interest and value is primarily historical and sociological, which is not inconsiderable even if they are negligible as art. I find them rather depressing in the context of the British portrait tradition, but I suppose that is not where or how they should be considered.

Osmund Bullock,

Mills was already advertising on his own account in May/June 1961 - see attached ad from The Tatler. I'm also attaching a composite of Mills's 'block capitals' signatures (plus one from a poster). As previously noted, all but the first are painted at the bottom of the painting, while every one of the 'cursives' is painted at the top.

I don't think your hypothesis about the reason for the different signature types holds water, Jacinto, as there seem to be 'photographic' ones in both styles. My idea was that perhaps the cursive was put on portraits ordered through the Gallery, the capitals on direct commissions...but I'm not sure that works either! Mills may simply have decided to change it in the mid-1960s - I can't see any cursive ones after c.1965 (Brigadier Eden), while (ignoring the very early Graham Kerr one of 1950) capitals seem to be the rule thereafter but not before. The portrait of Dame Jean Conan Doyle (https://bit.ly/2H6wiFe) is dated '1950s', but that is wrong: she is shown in her No.1 Service Dress as an Air Commandant [sic] in the WRAF between her promotion in April 1963 to that rank (the highest then attainable for a woman) and her retirement from the service in May 1966 - so very possibly post-1965.

The description of her on Art UK as "Air Chief Commandant" is incorrect, too - that rank only existed as an honorary one, and just one person (Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester) bore it. Confusingly the rank *did* exist in the WAAF during WWII, but was suspended when the war ended, and abolished when the WAAF became the WRAF in 1949. See https://bit.ly/2Y8MrAE

Jacinto Regalado,

The tie motifs could still be airplanes indifferently rendered, especially considering the source of the picture. One would have to ask the RAeS about its tie patterns ca. 1954, the date of the portrait (although it may have been made after an earlier photograph).

Jacinto Regalado,

And yes, Osmund, my hypothesis was mistaken. I expect Mills typically and quite possibly always worked from photographs.

One could say he is having a revival, of sorts, thanks to Art Detective. It is remarkable how many of his "utilitarian" works are on Art UK, and now quite a few entries will need to be corrected or revised.

Osmund Bullock,

I agree, Jacinto - on reflection much the most likely explanation is that they were aeroplanes, but the artist working from a photograph mistook them for crosses. Thanks for the image, Marion.

Jacinto Regalado,

Well, it appears this particular case is solved: this is a ca. 1965 (not 1966) portrait by Arthur George Mills (1907-1996) after a 1959 photograph, and some information about Mills (such as a summary of that in the Fletcher Trust Collection website linked above and what was unearthed by Kieran and Osmund) could be included.

Jacinto Regalado,

However, that leaves eight other portraits by Mills on Art UK, all touched upon in this discussion, whose entries need to be corrected or amended. After all, as it turns out, this has been an unusually productive exercise, which should result in a rehabilitation, of sorts, of the painter in question.

Jacinto Regalado,

Green Howards has some interesting portraits by better artists than Mills, but portrait painters have not been what they were for quite some time now. Even the Queen has not fared well, despite numerous attempts by multiple hands. The standards of Victorian portraiture, for instance, are long gone, let alone something higher--and photographs, to my eye, are mechanical things.

These seems to be the biographical essentials extracted from the above on Mills, though exact date of death and clarifiaction of d.o.b would help. The Burgess Hill phone number in the 1961 'Tatler' suggests that is where he died, since it's just south of Haywards Heath and presumably in its registration district.

[Arthur George Mills 1907-96] Mills was born in Hampstead on 23 April [or possibly May] 1907. He studied at Leyton Art School, the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, and in 1927–29 at the Camberwell School of Art. He first worked in London, apparently initially as a commercial artist and industrial and safety poster designer (examples in the IWM), and as an art teacher, including during and to shortly after the Second World War,
in which he was an ARP stretcher bearer. In 1946 he exhibited a village landscape at the Royal Academy (his only appearance there) and subsequently turned to portraiture in oils, substantially though not always working from photographs, including for some portraits of deceased sitters. This seems to have occurred by about 1950 (from the earliest dated ones) and many in association with the Hans Galleries at 40 Duke Street, St James’s, London. These were set up by Godfrey Hayman, who mounted their first portraits exhibition for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and specialized in seeking commissions for boardroom portraits of ‘men of enterprise’, and similar institutional, industrial and armed forces figures. They were done by a stable of artists, of whom Mills was one for over 25 years, though he also advertised individually, for example as a ‘Portrait painter-photographer’ in the 'Tatler', (7 June 1961) and as late as 1975 in 'Country Life'. By 1961 he had moved from London to Burgess Hill, Sussex. He appears to have died there (unmarried) in 1996 and to have been buried with brothers and sisters at Ocklynge Cemetery, Eastbourne.

Osmund Bullock,

With the general confusion about Mills identities, and without a middle 'G' (though the signature is not inconsistent), I think it's very unsafe to attribute this watercolour to him. This looks decidedly late Victorian/Edwardian in style; and the one work of his exhibited at the RA in 1946 was an oil. If you go here https://bit.ly/307a9zf you will find dozens of similar rural watercolours by "Arthur Mills" - I think it most unlikely they're by him...Arthur Wallis Mills (b.1878) is more likely, but it may well be someone else altogether.

Osmund Bullock,

Pieter, that's another first-class biographical summary, thank you. I do have a couple of corrections/additions.

Mills's correct DOB will I think be impossible to ascertain without ordering his birth certificate. As it is, you have to choose between the reliability of the 1939 Register (image attached) and that of the GRO death index. I have found many errors in GRO index entries (something they never admit and always decline to correct!), while Mills himself presumably provided the DOB for 1939...but it could have been misheard/misread en route. However, since the 1939 info was used post-war as a basic NHS register (and often updated), I would still lean towards that, i.e. "23 May [or possibly April] 1907".

He was not born in Hampstead. His birth was registered in the second quarter of 1907 (which annoyingly covers both April & May) at West Ham district, which included Walthamstow where he was born. See attached FreeBMD search result & 1911 Census entry - the latter shows his father was James Mills, a Brixton-born carpenter & joiner working for a hotel company.

He died on 16 May 1996 (see attached probate search result - he died intestate). I'm still working on a couple of other points (e.g. the Eastbourne burial).

Has anyone access to/looked at volumes of 'Who's Who in Art' or Frances Spalding's (British) '20th Century Painters and Sculptors'?

Jacinto Regalado,

Regarding the 8 other portraits by Mills on Art UK which need to be corrected or revised, will each of those have to become an individual new discussion?

Jacinto Regalado,

I agree, Osmund, that the watercolour is decidedly "old-fashioned," and Arthur Mills is hardly an uncommon name, but presumably there was still a market for such work before the post-war era, and our Mills was probably never after the "contemporary" set.

Still, you could be correct. Here are more watercolours of the same sort attributed to Arthur George Mills, but at least some of them are described as "Scottish, 19th century."

Osmund Bullock,

Probably not, Jacinto - I believe current policy is that a recommendation may be made by Art UK directly to the relevant Collection where the new information is clear, uncontentious and supported by good evidence.

Osmund Bullock,

You don't give a link, but the "Scottish, 19th Century" pair are presumably these: https://bit.ly/2JdMesS. They are actually oils on panel, not watercolours; Lyon & Turnbull have a good fine art team, and I would trust their assessment of them as C19th. Yes, they and/or the watercolours could conceivably be connected with our man, but there is no substantive evidence that they are, and good reason to think that they are not. As such, I repeat that it's very unsafe for us to attribute any of them to him - and potentially very misleading to the art world to do so.

Osmund Bullock,

Back to clearer-cut biographical matters for Pieter.

Listed as just 'Arthur Mills' (with no other Mills there), he's in Electoral Registers from 1946-48 at the Belsize Pk Gdns address given by the RA; after that the lack of middle initial makes pursuit impossible. It's quite probable he never married, but not certain. There are several possible Arthur G Mills marriages after 1948, including a tempting Hampstead one in 1948 Q3; but there were others of the name in Hampstead, and I can't tie the spouse Lillian D Priest/Mills in with anything definitive before or after. Again one would need to buy several marriage certificates to get an answer, positive or negative.

Mills re-appears in telephone directories as 'A G Mills' at the same Burgess Hill phone number as the Tatler ad from 1963 to 1973 - the address is 99 London Road. But once again he disappears from view thereafter.

The suggestion that the 1996 burial at Ocklynge Cemetery, Eastbourne, might be him seems to be right. Although I don't where Kieran found his fuller information, an online index of monumental inscriptions there (https://bit.ly/2JpLwrE) includes five Mills names apparently on the same memorial - one is Arthur George himself, and three of the four others are exactly the same names as his siblings in the 1911 Census. See attached (it takes for ever to get to the right page on the index).

Osmund Bullock,

Right, I can confirm it was definitely our artist who was buried in 1996 with his siblings at Eastbourne, as Kieran surmised.

Finally, I am also now entirely certain that it was our Arthur George Mills who married Lilian (later Lylian) Dorothy Priest at Hampstead in 1948. He was 41, she was 24 (born Jan 1924) - she actually only died three months ago, still in Burgess Hill. Her occupation in 1939 was 'Printer', which may possibly suggest an artistic connection. Arthur and Lilian had moved to Sussex by Sept 1956, when the first of their two sons was born (both registered Cuckfield, which included Burgess Hill). By 1980 they had moved from their spacious Victorian house in London Road to a flat above a shop round the corner in Station Rd; Lylian continued to live there after Arthur's death. His entry in the 1984 telephone directory suggests he was still (or once more) involved in art. See attached.

1 attachment

Jacinto, in response to your question about updating the other portraits by Mills on Art UK, Osmund is right that we can recommend changes directly to the relevant collection where there is new information that is clear, uncontentious and supported by good evidence.

Jacinto Regalado,

Well, it would be nice to see all nine portraits by Mills come up together under his name eventually, with the duly amended data and a proper biographical note for him. This has certainly been a very fruitful Art detective investigation.

Jacinto Regalado,

Once the process is completed for all the Mills pictures, it would be lovely if one or both of his sons could be notified by Art UK.

Osmund Bullock,

Hmmm. If that led them to finding this discussion (quite probable), with your firmly-expressed opinion of their father's work, I'm not sure that would be be very kind!

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Osmund, I should have thought of that. I suppose I ought to exercise more restraint in future.

Osmund Bullock,

I wasn't much better, Jacinto. It's hard, one wants to be honest; but on reflection I think I'd go with your last sentence where very recent history is involved...at least until one knows whether or not there is close family living.

Jacinto Regalado,

You were considerably better, Osmund, but then again, you're British and I'm Spanish, even if that's rather a dodge on my part.

Ash Bell,

Hi can someone identify my art please

Thanks Jacinto: sorry I missed the first one you raised, but I'll splice them in to the list and note examples in the V&A. They are good: pity he sidn't stick to that sort of thing but as Hogarth complained 200 years earlier, the better immediate money was presumably still in 'phiz-mongering'.

Kieran Owens,

Ash Bell, what exactly do you mean? Was there supposed to be an attachment?

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Pieter, based on admittedly scant evidence, his travel posters may be his best work. The more "industrial" commercial graphic work is not without merit, but of more limited interest.

Jacinto Regalado,

Kieran, the same person has posted the same query on a different thread. It would appear she (or he) is under the mistaken impression that Art Detective addresses work in private hands outside of Art UK.

Osmund Bullock,

Ash Bell, we can't help you here, I'm afraid. The Art Detective website exists only to investigate works of art that are in public (and a few semi-public) UK collections - that's why we give our time and expertise free. If you want to find out about something that you own, you could try getting in touch with a local auction house - many will look at an artwork for you, and give you a quick idea of its quality/value (and whether or not it's worth looking into further).

Kieran Owens,

The inscription on the headstone in Ocklynge Cemetery, Eastbourne reads as follows:

"In remembrance of MARGERY MARY GWENDOLEN (sic) MILLS (1901 - 1995) and of her brother ARTHUR GEORGE MILLS (1907 - 1996). Also remembering their much loved sister ELSIE BEATRICE MILLS (cremated) (1903 - 1992). And in remembrance of their brothers JAMES WILLIAM THOMAS MILLS (cremated) (1897 - 1986) and REGINALD PHILIP MILLS (cremated) (1911 - 1999)."

James Mills (26th December 1865 - ) married Hannah Dunning (23rd September 1868 - ) in St. Matthew's Church, parish of Brixton, county of Surrey, on the 7th October 1893. Of the four of their five children who had survived as of 2nd April 1911, the following is known:

• James William Thomas Mills, was born on the 7th July 1897, in Brixton, Surrey (sic). In July 1933 he married Ivy Marie Louise Skennerton (1902 - 1970). He died in Eastbourne, Sussex, on the 22nd November 1986.

• Marjorie Mary Gwendolin (sic) was born on the 27th October 1901 at 38, Townshend Terrace, Richmond, Surrey, and was baptised at Holy Trinity, Richmond, on the 13th April 1902. Father's trade: Joiner. In the 1939 register she was living, as Margery M. G. Mills, a stenographer and secretary, at 'Lyndhurst', St. Andrew's Road, Rochford, Essex. She died in 1995.

• Elsie Beatrice Mills was born on the 14th November 1903, at 38, Townshend Terrace, Richmond, Surrey, and was baptised at Holy Trinity, Richmond, on the 10th January 1904. Father's trade: Joiner. In the 1939 register she was living, as Elsie B. Mills, a stenographer and secretary, at 'Lyndhurst', St. Andrew's Road, Rochford, Essex. She died, unmarried, at 7 - 9, Neville Avenue, Hampden Park, Eastbourne, on the 20th April 1992.

• Arthur George Mills was born on the 23rd April or May 1907 and died on 16th May 1996.

Their fifth child, whose name is so far unknown, was born and died between 1901 and 1911.

Their sixth child, Reginald Philip Mills, was born in the registration district of West Ham, on the 27th November 1911. In the 1939 register he was living, as Reginald P. Mills, a chartered and registered architect, at 'Lyndhurst', St. Andrew's Road, Rochford, Essex. He died in September 1999 in Reading, Berkshire.

Art Detective is monitored Monday to Friday 9.00–5.30. Posts made over weekends or bank holidays will be responded to as soon as possible. I am occasionally out of the office on other business (as today) and may not be able to respond the same day.

Thank you again for all the helpful and fascinating research on this discussion topic!



Jacinto Regalado,

The earliest dated portrait on Art UK is from 1950, but other unlisted portraits may be dated earlier.

Katharine Eustace, Group Leader for Portraits 20th C, has kindly sent her concluding comments for Art UK, so this discussion will close soon. The Green Howards Regimental Museum and other collections are being contacted about the findings.

Several collections on Art UK are now, thanks to well researched discussion on this site, firmly attributed, and these collections are now the possessors of portraits by Arthur George Mills (1907–1996), while more have been identified in other collections not among those recorded on Art UK.

Arthur (sometimes George) Mills was a poster designer in the great age of poster design who appears to have turned to portraiture after the Second World War. We are grateful to Pieter van der Merwe for bringing together the details of his life in a neat resumé, in which he deals effectively with the problem of the use of photography in artist’s practice, and equally effectively side-steps the issue of value judgements. Osmund Bullock provided a collage of possible signatures and it became evident that Mills used two very different types of signature. Kieran Owens provided a very full account of Mills’s antecedence, while Jacinto Regalado suggested helpfully that all this information be brought to the attention of the various collections whose works had been until now anonymous, and that the artist’s sons be informed. I would also suggest that the Air Force Museum be advised of the rank mistakenly given to Dame Jean Conan Doyle.

Incidentally Mills does not have an entry in Spalding’s Dictionary of 20th C Painters and Sculptors.

This discussion, and we should remember that that is what it is, is open to all. Value judgements should be avoided, such judgements are highly subjective, and not what we are about. Osmund Bullock is right: we should not attempt to make formal attributions to works elsewhere than on the Art UK site, and certainly not to those in the commercial domain. Nor should anyone take it upon themselves to inform members of the public as to the regulations by which Art UK conducts this site, we should leave that to Art UK’s Art Detective Officer who monitors the site from Monday to Friday from 9.00 to 5.30.

As to the use of photography in portraiture, which has a tradition as long in time as the medium itself, it can be said to have been formative and innovative when employed by artists such as Degas, Sickert, Bacon and many, many others.

Thank you all once again for your exhaustive searches, all of which builds an extensive body of research and throws light on social tastes, working practices and a host of other incidental aspects.

Jacinto Regalado,

The Art UK listing for this portrait still says "unknown artist." The date of 1966 is incorrect, since it was based on a misreading of the signature, and the portrait was presented to the sitter in 1965, so it should be c. 1965 (and no later). The other three portraits now listed under "Arthur Mills" in Art UK should be given to Arthur George Mills to avoid any confusion with someone else, and his dates should be amended from the current "active 1950s-1967." The one portrait now listed under Arthur George Mills should also have his dates changed from "b. 1907." The idea is for all portraits on Art UK by Arthur George Mills to be grouped together with uniformity of data, so that they all come up together when his name is entered in a search.

Jacinto Regalado,

I realise, of course, that the necessary changes and adjustments to multiple listings will take some time and that there may be circumstances that inevitably entail some delay. Perhaps this uncommonly productive discussion could be left open until all that work is done, so that everyone could the be notified to that effect.

Jacinto Regalado,

I meant to write "everyone could then be notified to that effect."

Jacinto Regalado,

The listing for Brigadier Eden's portrait should probably include his dates (1903-1986), since the dates now included are apparently those of his term as Colonel of the Regiment.

Since the thread is so long, these are the original listings of the portraits on Art UK proposed in this discussion as the work of Arthur George Mills (1907–1996). Any changes will appear gradually as we receive replies from the collections and can be tracked against this list.
1. Unknown artist, ‘Brigadier George W. Eden, CBE, Colonel of the Regiment (1959–1965)’, 1966. The Green Howards Regimental Museum.
2. British School, ‘Ruth Constance Dorrien Knight (1893–1983, Mrs James Pennyman’, 1958. National Trust, Ormesby Hall.
3. Unknown artist, ‘Portrait of an Unidentified Man in a Grey Suit (‘Blue Eyes’)’, 1954. Royal Air Force Museum.
4. L. Mills, ‘Lt. General Sir Oliver Leese’, c.1955. Shropshire Regimental Museum.
5. British School, ‘Colonel James B. Worsley Pennyman (1883–1961)’, 1958. National Trust, Ormesby Hall.
6. Arthur Wallis Mills (1878–1940), ‘6th Earl and Countess of Mount Edgcumbe in Coronation Robes’, undated. Mount Edgcumbe House.
7. Arthur Mills (active 1950s–1967), ‘Sir Henry Montgomerie Cameron_Ramsay-Fairfax-Lucy (1896–1965), 4th Bt’, 1966. National Trust, Charlecote Park.
8. Arthur Mills (active 1950s–1967), ‘Air Chief Commandant Dame Jean Conan Doyle (1912–1997)’, 1950s. Royal Air Force Museum.
9. Arthur Mills (active 1950s–1967), ‘Major General Richard L. Bond (1890–1979), CB, CBE, DSO, MC, Hon. FRAM’, 1967. Royal Academy of Music.