Completed East of England and The Midlands: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 20th C 19 Does anyone recognise the ALB monogram in this 1936 portrait?

Topic: Artist

This is signed in monogram ALB bottom left above the date [Group leader: Grant Waters]. [To date the Collection have been unable to provide any more information about this portrait such as acquisition information]

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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Completed, Outcome

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Marcie Doran,

My guess is that the artist was Arthur Leslie Boole (Nov. 1, 1902–Feb. 12, 1992). He was a "lithographic artist" in Birmingham in 1939. All the documents for him on Ancestry show his middle initial/middle name. Perhaps the portrait is of one of his brothers. I haven't found a family tree for him on Ancestry so I cannot contact his relatives to find out if he painted portraits.

Jacinto Regalado,

Has the collection not provided information about this picture because it does not have any or because it has not responded?

I think we are probably looking for an artist from the Birmingham area, someone reasonably capable as a painter but unlikely to be well-known. I have been searching my old exhibition catalogues for the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists but the nearest I have in date is 1955. There is no reference in that catalogue to an artist ALB, which I think is the correct interpretation of the monogram. Does anyone have access to RBSA catalogues for the mid to late 1930s? It is quite possible that our artist may have been an exhibitor there.

Louis Musgrove,

As this seems to have stalled-might I suggest an out of the box idea.

The Wednesbury collection has three paintings by William Merret Hodges. Council dignitaries. He uses a similar broad brush stroke background. His faces are a similar style.I can find one of his paintings that has bright Orange used in it. My suggestion is this is by WMH- a small size sketch- of a council "person of interest" A.B.L. 1936 is the sitter and date. Perhaps nothing came of it. Just a suggestion.

Louis, 'out of the box' ideas are always most welcome! It is good that contributors can challenge the direction of a discussion in order to move it forward. In this case I think W. M. Hodges is a more accomplished painter than A.L.B if those are indeed the initials of the author of this portrait. Hodges also appears to sign his work fully. I also think that if the initials of the sitter are ALB, the artist would not have used what looks like a monogram format. But please keep the ideas coming!

I've asked both the RBSA and the Barber Institute Library for help here. The RBSA archives' automatic email reply indicates a 12-week wait for enquiries to be answered.

I'm very grateful to Tina Keevil, Senior Library Assistant at the Barber Fine Art Library for checking its shelves.

Unfortunately, they don't have RBSA catalogues from the 1930s which include members' work. They do hold the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, which contains signatures of some but by no means all of the artists they list. Tina looked for Arthur Leslie Boole, but there was no entry for him in the dictionary. She adds that the entries for artists with surnames beginning with 'B' span 3 volumes but only a relatively small percentage of the listings actually include a signature or monogram. She is sorry they can't be of more help on this occasion.

Perhaps the RBSA will be able to help, but that could take some time.

I'd like to thank Nigel Priddey, RBSA Archive Officer, for checking their holdings so promptly. Nigel writes:

'I have looked through the RBSA catalogues 1934-1940 and one artist has the initials ‘ALB’.

This is A.L.Baldry and the address is given as Wolmer Road, Marlow Common, Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

1936 spring exhibition

Cat no. 162 ‘The Common on Fire’
Cat no. 200 ‘An Autumn Afternoon’
Cat no.201 ‘Old Mine Workings, Cornwall’

1937 Spring Exhibition

Cat no.96 ‘A Collection’
Cat no.119 ‘A Grey Day’

1938 Spring Exhibition

Cat no.272 ‘Owls’
Cat no.278 ‘Made in Japan’

1939 Spring Exhibition

Cat no.229 ‘The Green Jar’
Cat no.232 ‘Prizes’'

The usual signature of art critic and painter Alfred Lys Baldry (1858–1939) appears to have been 'A L BALDRY' and the only examples of his work that I can find online look very different to this 1936 portrait, but perhaps others know more. Baldry himself was painted several times by his friend De László.

Jacinto Regalado,

None of the exhibited works listed above for Baldry appear to have been portraits, which does not exclude him but makes him less likely.

Jacinto Regalado,

Baldry was born in 1858, not 1838. [Thanks, Jacinto, now corrected in my post above. Marion]

I have undertaken a search in the UK Directory of Artists and Art Workers as published in The Year's Art for 1937, which has a very comprehensive list of contemporary artists working in 1936, and I have searched for artists with the initials ALB living in the greater Birmingham area. I found two names, both women artists: Miss Alice L Brooks of 309, Burbury Street, Lozells, Birmingham, and Miss A. L. Burwood of 71, Poplar Avenue, Edgbaston, Birmingham. I don't know the work of either artist but it may be worth a contributor checking to see if more information is available on either of these artists.

Osmund Bullock,

Johnson & Greutzner lists both artists. Alice L Brooks (same address as already given) exhibited six works at the RBSA between 1903 & 1937; either Nigel Priddey missed her, or perhaps she sometimes dropped the middle initial. Miss A.L. Burwood (no first name given) showed four at Birmingham and three at Liverpool (Walker) 1926-32. Her address at that earlier period is given as 120 Sycamore Rd, Smethwick, Staffs.

While those two will give the sleuths something to dig into, I think we may ultimately have to consider the possibility of 'ABL' as well as 'ALB'.

Marcie Doran,

I recently received an interesting message on Ancestry from the niece of Arthur Leslie Boole (24/06/2022 20:50).

She stated:
“Gilbert Harrington Boole was my father and Arthur Leslie Boole was his brother, my uncle and Godfather, so I did know him very well until his death in 1992 … There is a possibility that the picture is of my paternal grandfather Arthur William Boole … Arthur Leslie Boole was his eldest son and my cousin had confirmed that he used to paint nude subjects.”

The 1939 England and Wales record that I attached in my earlier comment includes all three men.

She sent me the attached photo of her grandfather. While I don’t think there is a strong enough resemblance to the man in the Art UK work, I was delighted to have heard from her and for her to confirm that her uncle painted portraits. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any images of his works.

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