Photo credit: Worcester College, University of Oxford
There is a monogram bottom left.
The collection, Worcester College, University of Oxford, note:
'Thank you for your interest in this picture. Unfortunately we do not have any further information on this monogram in the College Archives.
I have not seen it myself, but the back of the picture apparently has the following text:
"Mrs. Cuthbert Wells, The Firs, Steventon, Berks"
We would be very grateful for any additional information anyone can provide.'
This discussion is now closed. A conclusion was not reached.
Please see the discussion comments below.
If anyone has additional information about this painting, please follow the 'Start a discussion on Art Detective' link on the artwork's Art UK page to propose a new discussion.
Has anyone shown this to John Edmondson, a former curator of the World Museum collections at NML? He is an authority on botanical artists.
I have just contacted John and await his views
John has seen this and thinks that it is its English, but cannot decipher the monogram. Is it a design intended for some part of the textile industry? could the monogram be that of the concern or individual for whom it was made rather than the draughtsman? Is there someone at the Victoria and Albert Museum versed in such matters who could advise? Could Gill Saunders , for instance, be asked for her opinion?
Mrs Louisa Cuthbert Wells of Steventon can be found in the Reading newspapers from 1872 to 1914. Her 45 year old son, Edward Hensted Oulthbert's [a misreading of Cuthbert in digitisation?] death was reported in the Reading Mercury 16 May 1914
Probably just a coincidence, but the maiden name of Louisa (who died in 1914) was Hemsted. 'British Artists 1880-1940' records an 'E. Hemsted' who exhibited two works at the ROI in 1896, though no further detail of the artist or paintings is given. There is an address supplied, 'c/o Mr Soar, 1 Sussex Villas, Kensington' - but as [Charles David] Soar was a picture framer and artists' colourman, it was presumably just an accommodation address. I can find no other mention of the artist anywhere, nor any Hemsted with the initial who is listed as an artist in the censuses, so they may have been amateur.
Louisa did have siblings called Edward, Ellen and Eliza (1840-1909), and also first cousins Edwin (a doctor) and Elizabeth (1855-1929). I can't find anything more about the first two, but the two Lizzies both remained unmarried and close to the family - Louisa's daughter Ellen May Cuthbert Wells (1870-1948) was staying with her Aunt Eliza at the time of the 1901 Census, and her cousin Elizabeth was a witness at her marriage to Charles Gordon Beckingham in 1920. The son you mention, Martin - Edward Hemsted Cuthbert Wells (1871-1914) - died in South Africa.
I think Dr Edwin may have settled in Canada, where a Dr E Hemsted and his wife ('Mrs E.H.') were active in the Woman's Art Association in the 1890s - living overseas might perhaps be a reason for a 'c/o' British address. This is all very tenuous stuff, I know, and probably leads us nowhere useful.
Aren't the initials of the monogram Q O L?
The monogram is very unusual. All letters seem to be the same size so the norm would be that reading left to right, the letters would stand for first name, middle name, last name (man or single woman) or first name, maiden name, married name (married woman). However, the Q and O are upended, crossed and interlocked while the L is in reverse and is resting on the O, but not interlocked. Is there a "language of monograms" of which I am not aware?
The cursive capital Q is also in reverse...could the monogram be LOQ not QOL?
Although I cannot identify all of the greenery in the bouquet, the flowers include Scabiosa (mourning); Red Poppy (consolation or remembrance); Camomile (patience or energy in adversity); Marsh Mallow (beneficience); Fern (sincerity); Dandelion (faithfulness); Shamrock (lightheartedness); Ivy (friendship).
I wonder if the unusual configuration of the monogram is meant to indicate how the language of flowers is to be read and understood.
The two dark purple/maroon and white flowers in the lower center may be Passion Flower (faith, belief).
I think the two flowers in the lower centre are
I think the two flowers in the lower centre are white clover, of which there is also foliage present. The yellow flower close by is silverweed, with its leaf just to the left. I don't think the five-petalled mauve flowers are marsh mallow; could they be corn cockle? The flower and leaves at the top appear to be meadowsweet.
It might be worth contacting the RHS Lindley Library to see whether they recognize the monogram.
I find that loq. is an abbreviation for loquitur (i.e., he (or she) speaks). If the artist is speaking through the language of flowers, loq. would be an appropriate monogram. I will leave it to the poets among you to draft an appropriate interpretation once the identification of the flowers is confirmed.
Please ask the collection to provide a good close-up image of the monogram only, taken in sidelight. There are too many possible interpretations: for example I see two chain-linked Os inside an L.
I agree about them contacting the Lindley Library, but would add the editor (and through him the readers, and Kew staff) of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine: "the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants ... published continuously since 1787". http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/research-data/publications/curtiss-botanical-magazine
If these two sources don't recognise the monogram, it possibly isn't worth knowing anyway!
Thank you all very much for your suggestions. I will be happy to provide a close-up of the monogram but I'm unable to do so until Wednesday 25 January as I work part-time. Sorry for the delay, but I hope it will prompt further revelations next week.
I have attached a close up of the monogram, which I hope will be of sufficient quality. Please do let me know if I can help further.
Emma, do you also have a high-res image of the whole painting? Do you think the monogram is a later addition? Thanks!
Thanks, Emma. Gosh, how weird - that looks just like pencil & watercolour on paper, not oil on board.
As Malcolm observed from even the original image (and I also felt), it seems to be just L interlinked with a pair of O's - I can see no sign of a tail for a Q. See the attached (from the old image).
I strongly disagree with the monogram clarification on one point: the uppermost red element is the tail of a capital Q. I will concede that I have no explanation for the middle red element.
I've been sent a link to this with a query as to whether I can help as I specialise in botanical art.
First this is not botanical art - it's a flower painting of the type produced by very many ladies in the nineteenth century. Most flower painting of this type was done in watercolours.
I'd personally like to see much better images of the quality of the painting. It looks to me as if it could be gouache or watercolour with body colour added.
I think it very unlikely this is an oil painting as it's very definitely on paper (based on the enlarged monogram). You can see the fibres in the macro photo picture of the monogram. It also appears to have darkened over time which is not uncommon in paper with any wood fibre content.
In addition the painting is matted which is a common practice with watercolour paintings and is not a technique commonly employed with oil paintings.
I can confirm that Mrs Cuthbert Wells is not included in "A History and Dictionary of British Flower Painters 1650 - 1950" and I looked under Cuthbert, Wells and Hemsted.
Curtis's Botanical Magazine is a magazine for botanists - not one about art. The RHS Lindley Library would be a better place to start if this were botanical art - which it is not.
I'd like to see the name on the reverse and how that is attached. It's not uncommon for the name of a buyer to be attached on the reverse. The assumption that the name belongs to painter rather than a buyer needs to be reviewed.
I found the larger image of the monogram alone provided by Worcester College and the image of clarification by Osmund Bullock to be helpful.
When I viewed it, the first thing which struck me was that it was two (literal) links interlinked and a keyhole. I didn't see initials at all. I certainly did not see the Q at all - and I'm not sure that I've ever seen a monogram where one of the letters was almost completely upside down (which is the only way I can see that it's possible to identify a Q). Why would you turn an initial upside down?
Does Worcester College have any record of how the painting came to be added to their collection?
Thank you for your interesting comments about this painting. I can confirm that the label on the back appears to be the label of the owner and not of the artist (please see attached photograph); I am sorry that you have been put to some trouble investigating this name.
The only high resolution image of the painting is the one taken for the Art UK website, and it is too large to attach here. The painting is framed and glazed so it is difficult to tell exactly what medium has been used, but it is not a watercolour. Unfortunately some of the darker places on the photograph (which appear to be the paper darkening over time) are in fact patches of dust and dirt on the inside of the glass. I am not able to take a better quality photograph of the whole painting, but have attached a close-up of one section, which I hope will be of use.
Unfortunately the College has very few records relating to our collection of paintings and I have not been able to find any information as to where this painting has come from.
In that case, my guess is that it is painted in gouache which is an OPAQUE watercolour medium and one which people sometimes mistake for oil - especially if gum arabic has also been used. It's certainly possible to produce the effects seen in the painting. (see also http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/g/gouache )
Another possibility is egg tempera in the hands of somebody who isn't very skilled in its use.
I guess it's possible that it's an oil painting as it is possible to paint on thicker paper so long as it has been covered with a layer of gesso.
Reasons why I think it unlikely this is an oil painting is that:
1) Glazing an artwork is completely routine if the artwork is on paper as I think this one is.
2) It's very unusual to glaze oil paintings - unless highly valuable and then only behind museum glass and as a security measure
3) The reverse of the painting is also very indicative of the way an artwork on paper is sealed with brown paper on the back - to make it airtight and to stop the insects who like eating paint!
My view is that it is typical of the sort of painting produced by a Victorian lady who enjoyed painting flowers. However, given my knowledge of other artwork, I'm struggling to find any particular artistic merit in terms of technique or composition.
I'm not sure it merits any further investigation.
Many thanks for your thoughts about this painting, and the information about the possible medium, both of which are extremely useful. I agree that as the monogram has not been easily identified it points to a more amateur work that does not need any further investigation.
It seems to be a pretty skillful composition for the work of an amateur
I've seen much better by people who are not amateurs.
IMO this painting is floral painting trying to be botanical art but failing to clearly define the attributes of each flower. The composition serves to mask rather than elucidate and inform. That's why I'd characterise it as decorative but leaning towards amateurish.
This is botanical art re british wild flowers (as plates for publication)
This comes from "British Wild flowers" (1876) by John Edward Sowerby (1825-1870); Charles Pierpoint Johnson (d. 1893); and John William Salter (1820-1869).
Here's an example (I think it's American) of a mix of different wild flowers which clearly maintain their identity.
I am entirely in agreement with everything Katherine has written. I feel it's a fairly randomly collected group of flowers, grasses and fern painted by an amateur of modest talent - assembled prettily, but with no intent to make each's characteristics clear. Hence the difficulty in identifying some of them, the foliage is all jumbled up. On which subject, one (at least) of the two yellow blooms centre right cannot be dandelion (though of course the artist may have thought they were) - the alternating leaves on the stem suggest it's a narrow-leaved hawk's beard, a common annual weed. Peter Smith was also clearly right to identify the lower centre flowers as clover, with some of its "shamrock" leaves waving around disconnected bottom left.
Or perhaps those leaves do not belong to the dandelion-like flowers, but to the very faded corn cockle (which, like Peter, I think it probably is). In which case it could perhaps be a dandelion (without any foliage) after all...and this is self-evidently not botanical art in any meaningful sense.
I don't think that this artist was interested in botanical accuracy, but in decorative design. The 'monogram' bottom left is almost like a trademark and may indicate how this design was intended to be used. We should perhaps be judging this alongside designs for textiles , wallpaper or ceramics, and not by what is commonly classed as 'fine art'.
Thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion. As this is a 19th century work I would like to summarise and make a formal recommendation. There is general agreement that it is an amateur work with a monogram that is hard to identify, but may comprise L,O and O. For these reasons and in the absence of other documentary evidence, the artist is unlikely to be identified.