Portraits: British 20th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 13 Does anyone recognise the artist’s signature in this portrait?

Man with Moustache and Newspaper
Topic: Artist

The painting is signed top left, but the signature appears indecipherable (see attached).

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

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13 comments

The Collection commented: 'In terms of acquisition method, the register reveals that it was catalogued retrospectively, and that any data originally associated with the painting was not recorded. This was about 1993. The only other way to trace information would be to go through museum records held in archives, although I'm afraid I am unable to do so at present. My colleague at the store managed to obtain a snapshot of the label on the back of the painting (attached) and I hope this is of some help.'

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Martin Hopkinson,

a guess = could it be by a West of Scotland Jewish artist? There was a 1979 exhibition of Jewish art at Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery
It reminds me a bit of the manner [rather than style] of some of the post war paintings by the Manchester painter Emmanuel Levy [1900-86] - but I do not think that it is by him

Jacinto Regalado,

Based on dress (on which I am no expert), I would say this is c. 1920s. No doubt a real expert could be more definitive.

The framing label on the reverse of the frame, reading Kelmans, 4X Gibson St, Glasgow W [X indicates an obscured digit] is probably the label of the following individual, whose entry in Mapping Sculpture is given below. I do not know when the business relocated to Gibson St but the label is certainly later than 1920. Additionally it is worth noting that the Glasgow newspaper held by the sitter has a photograph on the front page. When did this newspaper move away from a front page with text only?

Alex Kelman (active 1910-1951), Carver, gilder
Located at 229 St. Vincent Street Glasgow | 1910 (Circa) - 1911 (Circa)
Located at 113 Dumbarton Street Glasgow | 1920 (Circa) - 1921 (Circa)
Located at 45 Gibson Street Glasgow | 1950 (Circa) - 1951 (Circa)

'Alex Kelman', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/organization.php?id=msib1_1261050495, accessed 22 Dec 2020]

Might the sitter be someone with a professional connection to the paper he holds, which is probably the Glasgow Herald? If so (e.g. a retirement portrait) that might indirectly help with the artist. Bit of a long shot but if so there may be photos in its records.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, I also thought it likely a retirement portrait of a long-serving employee at the newspaper, and more like 1950s, give or take – he is dressed like that because he hasn’t changed how he dresses since the 1920s. I don't think it’s by a professionally-trained artist – the hands are strangely elongated – but (s)he’s captured something appealing in the face.

I initially guessed it was the Glasgow Herald (though the letter just peeping out doesn't really look like a gothic 'H'). But if it *is* the Herald, there is an anomaly: they didn't put news and pictures on their front page until Oct 1958...but the masthead font was changed at the same time from gothic to more standard Times-like capitals. See https://bit.ly/3hboVxC (put "Oct 1958" in the date box). So either it’s not the Herald, or the artist was incompetent...or perhaps this was a special edition, or at least a mock-up front page, printed in the sitter’s honour with an historical gothic masthead.

Kieran Owens,

1958 was the Glasgow Herald's 175th anniversary, so it could be that the Gothic masthead and the inclusion of a photograph were a symbolic mock-up of a change of style from old to new and the portrait celebrates that transition. The fact that it is in the collection at Paisley might also be relevant, even though it his only ten miles or so west of Glasgow. It is a long shot, but perhaps if the portrait was printed in The Herald it might generate a response that would help with its identification.

Andrew Chamberlain,

The image on Art UK may be cropped at the sides and lower margin. If so, a fuller image may show more details of the newspaper.

Billy Hannah,

Could you possibly add a close up HR image of the signature please

The best close-up we could get from Art UK's image is attached at the top of this discussion. It's possible the image has been cropped, a common problem. We'll ask the collection about both of these questions.

The Collection have confirmed that the image on Art UK is not cropped and that they unfortunately do not have a close up hi-res image of the signature.

Would another line of enquiry, or 'thread' be to focus on the famous thread industry in Paisley and consider whether this might be a member of the Coats family. Entirely co-incidental but I note one of the members of the family, Thomas Heywood Coats died in 1958; father of the last Coats family chairman, Sir William Coats.

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