STF_WAG_S43-001
Topic: Artist

This intriguing bust, probably 1940s–1950s, looks like the work of someone like Frank Dobson or possibly Jacob Epstein, though it appears to be unsigned.

Jacinto Regalado, Entry reviewed by Art UK

38 comments

Jon Edgar,

the hair looks too mannered for Epstein and the clay surface too perfect for Dobson. The hair forms feel too decorative for either. Are there any more views?

Jacinto Regalado,

Does Wolverhampton have any provenance information, such as when and from what source the bust entered the collection?

Jo Andrew,

The full face photo does indeed suggest 1940's-1950's but on looking at the other views it is clear that the hair above the forehead is not in a war time "roll" which would have been held in place with pins. (My mother's style at that time.) My hunch would be to look at the 60-70's. My own hairstyle back then was almost identical with the annoyance of being unable to stop the front curled hair from flopping forward.

Jacinto, they do not have any acquisition information recorded on their database available to them now, but when they are back in the Gallery they will check their paper files. David

Jacinto Regalado,

I expect it could be early 1960s, but I rather doubt 1970s, and I still think 1950s is quite plausible. If we are lucky, the date of acquisition may help with dating the piece.

Helen Mason,

Enigmatic features, this is ringing a bell but I can’t yet put a finger on it - it is certainly worth contacting the Royal Society of Sculptors at Dora House, SW7 about this.

Please do report back to the site with the answer, it really would be fascinating to know who the subject is and by whom....

All v best wishes for your Quest!

Jacinto Regalado,

Interesting thought, David. It's worth looking into, but Huxley-Jones seems to have had a more naturalistic style, and this head feels different to me, though that's hardly evidence.

I have checked with our contact if they have been allowed to go back to the Gallery yet to check paper files for acquisition information.

Kieran Owens,

Might this be the head of a well-known young British actress? Jean Simmons comes to mind or one from that 1950s/1960s era?

I haven't had a long look at this, but my feeling is that local man, Sir Charles Thomas Wheeler (1892-1974), would be a good option. Born in Staffordshire, Wheeler was raised in Wolverhampton and he studied at Wolverhampton School of Art. A perfect reason for this piece to be in the Wolverhampton collection. I'll try to undertake some further research in a day or two.

Jacinto Regalado,

Jean Simmons is possible, Kieran, though I'm not convinced. I considered Diana Dors, but quickly discarded that idea.

An improved image of the Sir Charles Wheeler bronze of HRH Princess Alexandra is attached. It is from Royal Academy Illustrated 1968. I imagine that this work was a commission from him in part due to his former role as President of the Royal Academy. Charles Wheeler was active as a sculptor from the 1920s. His wife, Muriel, Lady Wheeler, sat for him regularly and she was also a well known painter and sculptor with a strong connection to Wolverhampton, which is where she met Charles Wheeler. I have a book in store on Charles Wheeler and I'll try to find it as it may help further, assuming my thoughts in regard to a possible attribution to Charles Wheeler are correct.

Jacinto Regalado,

I am not familiar with Wheeler's work. Our bust feels different to me than the Alexandra bust, but I suppose his style may have changed over time, given a long career. The matter seems worth pursuing.

I have looked through the Wolverhampton collection as recorded on Art UK and I think I may have made a little progress in working out the approximate indexing in regard to the sculptures. Our bronze has the accession number S43, which based on other works I have checked in the collection, should give a rough date of acceptance of circa 1965-68, although some of the numbering is not exactly in sequence. There is no indication presently whether this particular work came via gift, bequest or was purchased. The collection has two sculptures currently recorded as being by Sir Charles Thomas Wheeler, namely 'Mother & Child', ref S17, purchased from the artist in 1945, and 'Adam', ref S14 received by gift in 1957 to mark the election of Charles Wheeler as President of the Royal Academy. In addition to the work by Charles Wheeler there is also sculpture by other artists with strong local connections, namely John Paddison (1929-2000), Geoffrey Dudley (1918-1986) and Robert Jackson Emerson (1878-1944). My feeling is that the current work under discussion may well have had a strong artist connection to Wolverhampton.

Jacinto Regalado,

Thank you, Grant. Perhaps David (Saywell) can ask the gallery if it could now check its paper files for information as to when and from what source the bust entered the collection.

Jacinto, thanks - I have just asked again now by email, after last trying on 25th May. I will post here a response when I receive it. David

I have now linked the Collection's own online catalogue record to the Art UK record. You can search for each accession number in the search box top right, or change the 'WAGMU_S43' section of the URL and replace with other 'S' numbers either side of this number.

Kieran Owens,

Unless it is the accession number of S43, there would appear to be a series of numerals (a date?) at the arrow points in the attached composite, more clearly visible in the cleaned up Art UK photos then in what appears to be the collection's earlier photographs. If it is not the accession number, could the collection be asked to supply a hi-res image of this area?

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

Oh dear, it's late again. "...then in what..." should, of course, be "...than in what..."

Jacinto Regalado,

The lower number clearly seems to be a 3, and the one above it appears to be a 1. I expect this is related to the number of bronze casts made and presumably the number of this one. However, we do need a better view of that area.

Jacinto, the Collection have commented:
'We have checked all of our records, unfortunately we have no record of this sculpture. It seems it was simply discovered when a store audit was carried out at some point. The earliest reference we could find was a list from 1976 so it must have been in the collection since then'
Grant, the Collection have commented:
'It may well be by Charles Wheeler, I have checked his artist file and there is nothing referring to this work in the file.'

Jacinto Regalado,

Can we get a close-up at the best available resolution of the numbers or inscription at the right of the back of the base seen in image #4, previously noted by Kieran? To start, can Art UK try its hand at it?

https://bit.ly/3gytEL3

Jacinto, I have asked my Imaging colleagues if they can pull the hi-res image out. It's not in its normal place for hi-res images, hopefully will post something later today. David

Jacinto Regalado,

Apparently, David, what we saw before was an optical illusion.

In that area perhaps, but I thought there were some areas with interesting marks that could be letters. On the left shoulder, right in the centre, possibly some writing on the base itself, to the right of the '3', and maybe some markings on the edge to the right. I thought at least worthy of asking the Collection again to look at those areas?

Jacinto Regalado,

The collection would have to examine those areas closely on the actual object, which is certainly worth trying.

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