Portraits: British 19th C, Yorkshire, The Humber and North East England: Artists and Subjects 20 Further information sought on Evelyn De Morgan’s copy of ‘Robert and Elizabeth Buxton’

Topic: Other

We have discovered that Evelyn De Morgan (who was related to Elizabeth Buxton) made a copy of this painting. It was sold at auction after the death of Margaret Fraser Spencer Stanhope (Evelyn’s mother was a Spencer Stanhope) in 1965. The information was found in the sales catalogue for Banks Hall, Cawthorne, Barnsley: ‘E. de Morgan, after Hurlstone. Charming conversation piece. Elizabeth Julia Spencer Stanhope and Sir Robert Buxton 1834, as children, 34 x 43 in.’.


Barnsley Museums and Archives and The De Morgan Foundation were excited to learn about this new and (to us) previously unknown painting by Evelyn and we would like to know its current whereabouts and its journey after the sale. I have had no success tracking down the auctioneer’s records and hope that Art Detective could help.

Gillian Nixon, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Peter Nahum,

I suggest you advertise in the Antiques Trade Gazette (or write a letter to the editor) and locally, if you do net a response to this. Also letter to Country Life.

Osmund Bullock,

Gillian, can we take it that you identified the name of the auctioneers from the catalogue, but that they are either no longer in business (or their records for the period no longer exist)? Also, have you tried to get in touch with Margaret Fraser Spencer-Stanhope's grandson, Alistair Fraser (b. 1963), who lives (or lived) locally? See https://bit.ly/2Qi0L7e. It's a long shot, but just possible he has something relevant, e.g. a catalogue marked up with buyers' names.

Other than that I will see if there's anything in the Heinz Archive / Library (NPG) when I can get there, perhaps next week.

Gillian Nixon,

Hi Osmund

I have done a lot of looking for the auctioneers records with no success I am afraid. They were taken over by Phillips and they were taken over by Bonhams, I have spoken to some who worked for Phillip’s and he doesn’t recall seeing any records from Henry Spencer.
I have seen one catalogue with prices marked but no names. I know of Alistair and I am in touch with other members of the family, I haven’t contacted them yet but I think I will do so soon.

Thank you for your offer to look in the Heinz Archive it’s is much appreciated.

Gillian Nixon,

Thank you Peter

They are good suggestions and I will follow up on them.

The search for this painting continues. The request has just appeared in the Antiques Trade Gazette, as suggested by Peter Nahum last May.

Barbara Bryant,

This is a useful development in this year-old discussion.  The Antiques Trade Gazette has a wide readership.

The Banks Hall sale in 1965 was organised by auctioneers Henry Spencer & Sons.

What is needed, or what might help, is to find an annotated copy of the Banks Hall sale catalogue of 16,17 September 1965, as Osmund noted last year.  One of the living descendants of the seller might have one. Again, as per Osmund, there was individual who could be contacted. I wonder if Gillian Nixon or others interested in this painting were able to do that?

This painting went through that same sale

Kieran Owens,

Here is the link to the ATG article:


On a practical note, as generous and all as is the advice given above, is the ArtUK Art Detective facility the appropriate forum for a question relating to a painting that is not actually on the ArtUK database?

Barbara Bryant,

Kieran, you make a good point. But let's give the discussion a bit more time. It was given the green light in May 2019 because the query made reference to a work in a public collection (Norwich Museums Service), even though the substance of the query was about a lost painting. Norwich Museums would benefit from knowing about a copy of their painting, even if it is in a private collection. In any case, if no further information comes forward soon, we will have to say that the discussion has run its course.

I agree with Barbara that we should give this more time. The enquiry is from Gillian Nixon at Barnsley Museums, who has been researching the family history of which this painting is part. Norfolk Museums did not know about this copy of their painting and are naturally interested to learn what happened to it after the sale.

Osmund Bullock,

I don't think I ever looked this up at the Heinz last year, sorry - or if I did there was nothing relevant there; and of course I cannot check, as they are closed until further notice. I have to say it makes little sense in their case - there is plenty of space, very few readers (who generally get a large table each), and admission is in any case only by appointment. I suppose it's the necessity of handling books that's the problem. Will it ever end...or is this the death knell for public access to physical archives and libraries, especially those with open-shelves access?

If Gillian Nixon had trouble tracking down Alistair Fraser, Margaret Fraser Spencer-Stanhope's grandson, she might like to ask the people here: https://bit.ly/32vKpAl. They are based at Jowett House Farm, with which Fraser had and may still have a connection - according to the Companies House website he is an active director of Jowett House Farms Ltd, whose principal activity is "the renting out farm properties".

Barbara Bryant,

Osmund, I too despair about the NPG Archive and wrote to them saying as much very recently. It hardly suffers the problems of crowd control. But they would have to pay staff to open, and that they won'd do while furlough is in effect. So it's our loss.

Louis Musgrove,

I notice that Christies sold on 11 July 2018 a painting by Evelyn de Morgan of Alice and Winifred Spencer Stanhope. It went for a lot of money. It was owned by a Mr Stanley Woolston of Cambridge who bought in in the early 1960's- perhaps at the same auction?
I also notice that there was a fire at Bourlet's art storage in October 1991 where the De Morgan Foundation stored a lot of Evelyn's work- might the painting we seek be one of those destroyed?????

Barbara Bryant,

Thanks, Louis. Here is the link to the picture you mention.
This one, which shows members of her extended family, is from a somewhat later point in Evelyn's career (1884). Our picture is presumably an early student work. There is now much interest in Evelyn Pickering de Morgan; indeed she was one of the stars of the NPG's recent Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhibition. The long established De Morgan Foundation is devoted to her work and that of her husband William. I don't think the picture under discussion would have been destroyed in 1991, as there would be some record if the De Morgan Foundation had owned it.

Barbara Bryant,

Excellent news, J. Foster. We will follow up on this lead. Thank you.

Barbara Bryant tells me that she contacted both Bassetlaw Museum and Sheffield City Archives, neither of which have the catalogue. She also tried contacting the John Goodchild Collection at the West Yorkshire History Centre in Wakefield. It seems to me that we have done what we can to locate a catalogue although this need not stop those most interested in the picture pursuing the subject further. However, even were a catalogue to be located with the name of the purchaser in 1965, we would not necessarily be able to locate the ownership today given the long interval.

This discussion, Further information sought on Evelyn De Morgan’s copy of ‘Robert and Elizabeth Buxton’, has elicited 15 responses in May 2019 and July 2020. It has not established the current whereabouts of De Morgan's copy but has drawn out useful background material. In the circumstances, unless those participating can produce actual further evidence, I suggest that this discussion should shortly close.

Gillian Nixon,

Hello everyone.
I think I have tried everything I can to track down the archive of Henry Spencer, it is grieving to find that the records of such a busy and respected company were not valued at the time of merger but such is the way of archives. Maybe in time other information may come to light. I will continue to keep my eyes and ears open.
With regard to the twin paintings owned at one point by Stanley Woolston who was Queen Victoria’s favourite art dealer allegedly again there are no records of his business which again is a great loss to us.
Thank you for participating in this search it has been much appreciated.

Gillian, a copy of the Henry Spencer Banks Hall sale catalogue of 16-17 September 1965 is held at by the National Art Library at the V&A (shelf ref. 23.B.19650916 ). This would be worth checking for annotations -- unless of course it is one of the copies you have seen already and refer to at the outset of the discussion.

Gillian Nixon (by email):

'Hi I have seen a annotated sale catalogue but it is one in private hands, I I will see if I can find someone to have a look for me, as the chances of me travelling to London are slim to none. Thank you very much for this.'

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