Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 20th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 29 Further information sought on 'Lady in a Green Dress' by George Henry

GL_GM_2188
Topic: Subject or sitter

Can more be found about the identity of this sitter?

Could she be the subject of other paintings by George Henry on Art UK?

http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/portrait-of-an-unknown-woman-183302/

http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-paisley-shawl-190159/

Edward Stone, Entry reviewed by Art UK

29 comments

What a lovely painting! The three paintings highlighted surely all have the same woman as the model. I suspect that none of the titles under which these paintings are now known was that given by George Henry. It is possible that one of the two paintings showing a woman with a fan may be (unsurprisingly) 'Woman with a fan' exhibit number 2 at the Royal Academy in 1924. Unfortunately there is no image of it in RA Illustrated for that year. Does the collection have a date or label for 'Lady in a green dress'? It looks mid 1920s to me. I'll dig into my catalogues of the period to see whether I can offer some help in the identification of the model. She is likely either to be a family member of Henry, a friend or a professional model, and not a commissioning client.

Martin Hopkinson,

Can anyone identify the painting behind her which might help to identify the sitter?

Hat Jodelka,

A wild guess, but could she be an artist's model & could they have been painted for commercial use?

Martin Hopkinson,

Are there any photographs of female members of the Henry family, or of the family of the donor of this picture? Was the donor in any way related to the Henry family?
The fact that there are at least three portraits of the same sitter of the same period favour the idea that the sitter was a favourite model, if she cannot be identified as a member of the artist's family or as a very close friend indeed of Henry. In the 1920s other Scottish portrait painters such as Stanley Cursiter sometimes exhibited portraits of favourite models repeatedly without any identification of their identity in the titles
It might be worth keeping an eye out for pictures by other artists using this sitter.

Al Brown,

The painting behind her is Rembrandt's Agatha Bas in the Royal Collection

Betty Elzea,

I agree with Hat. The picture is meant to be anonymous. Of course we don't know if the artist's wife, or family member, was his regular model, rather than a paid model. The piece of furniture behind the figure looks very like the furniture in 'The Paisley Shawl'. This painting is the best of the 3 shown, I think.

Very little information is readily available about George Henry's personal life and it's not clear whether he married. I wonder, however, if the model in these three pictures could be his wife (or partner)? In 1920-22 Henry would have been in his very early sixties, while the model is obviously much younger, but a parallel could be drawn with fellow 'Glasgow Boy' John Lavery whose (second) wife Hazel, thirty years his junior, was the subject of many of her husband's paintings.

Patty Macsisak,

The woman in "The Paisley Shawl" and "Portrait of an Unknown Woman" bear a close resemblance to "Portrait of a Woman" (1922).

http://www.richardtaylorfineart.com/gallery/scottish-paintings/george-henry/portrait-of-a-woman

"Through the Woods" (1891) depicts two girls, one with black hair and one with reddish blond hair. These girls often figure in his paintings and may be close family members.

"Picking Bluebells", "A September Day" and "The Reading"may depict the older woman in "Portrait of a Woman" with the two girls mentioned above.

http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/picking-bluebells-135373/search/keyword:george-henry-bluebells

http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/a-september-day-215290/search/actor:henry-george-18581943/page/2

http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-reading-84436/search/actor:henry-george-18581943/page/3/view_as/grid

If there is a resemblance then perhaps the sitter in the portrait of 1922 is the mother of the model for 'Lady in a Green Dress' and the two related works. And just possibly it is this older woman who was the wife of George Henry, and closer in age to him (he became 64 in 1922). She wears a wedding ring and sits on a gold chair which seems to be the one also seen in 'The Paisley Shawl'. The model in the green dress picture would be the artist's daughter. I fear this is all rather speculative and wonder if our genealogist colleagues can shed light on Henry's family circumstances?

Malcolm Fowles,

Other paintings by Henry, besides those mentioned, show two girls, one raven-haired and one golden-haired, at a distance which makes comparison of other features infeasible. Some show the pair in the countryside, which suggests relatives (or one and a friend) more than models.

One of these - Two Girls in a Wood - is dated 1919, when Henry was 60 or 61. http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=98279

This may narrow down genealogical searches. However, I'm finding it hard to work out where he lived from his twenties onwards.

Malcolm Fowles,

I am now getting an error message from the above link to The Athenaeum website, and moreover when I search for the artist I only get a list with "George Henry" forenames. That's junk American technology for you.

I can still find the painting by navigating from their home page to the "by tags" search, and searching for "pink dress". In the results, choose "Mary in the pink dress". You get a painting by Henry of unmistakeably the same woman, perhaps a bit younger. No date, as with many of Henry's works. Alternatively search in Google Images for "athenaeum pink dress"; she is about no 28 in my list of results.

When you scan all of Henry's works online, in Art UK and elsewhere, you'll soon realise that (a) he went through a phase with this style of portrait and (b) this sitter occurs a handful of times for certain, but anonymous except with the pink dress, and possibly numerous other times where there's a girl with black hair.

I have gathered together some information on George Henry. He was not married, had no children or brothers or sisters, and he lived a rather solitary life after moving from Scotland to London circa 1903. In view of this, I think we can rule out a family member as the model for this painting. His London studio was at 26 Glebe Place, Chelsea but Henry lived elsewhere in south west London, sometimes as a boarder taking a room in a family house.

Osmund Bullock,

Grant, I don’t think George Henry’s life in London was quite as solitary as you conclude. Not only that, but I have a theory as to who this lady (and/or the other sitters discussed) may just possibly be. I'll reveal more of that in another post.

First things first. Lou is spot on with her date estimate of circa 1920-22 for our portrait – it was in fact exhibited at the Glasgow Institute in September 1922. (Henry continued to exhibit regularly in Scotland after his move to London.) ‘The Scotsman’ of 30th Sept acknowledged the painting’s skill and effect, but found it “somewhat superficial” – see attachment. The NAL has the exhibition catalogue, so when I get a moment I’ll pop over to the V&A and find the work’s original title.

I can find no press mention of the others, though my search has not been exhaustive. Paisley’s 1924 ‘The Paisley Shawl’ & McLean’s ‘Unknown Woman’ (likely ‘Woman with a Fan’ exhib RA 1924) seem to date from the same time and certainly show the same person. Ours, which is two or three years earlier, is probably the same woman, too; but her thinner, paler lips make me slightly less certain.

‘Mary in the Pink Dress’ may also be her or a close relation – but it’s clearly much later, not earlier than the others. It is in fact dated, though the date is unclear at this resolution. It seems to be either 1929 or 1939, and from the *dress style I assume the latter – could Paisley confirm the date for us, please? And is the title actually on the back of the picture, or is it just information that came with it (however that was – there is no acquisition info)?

[*The style was to me surprising – at first glance it looks almost 1950s. But I’ve found all the different design elements, albeit separately, in some 1938 Paquin dress designs in the V&A’s collection. The very full skirt coming out from a natural waistline, the pleated shawl collar, the large artificial flower are all there – put together they seem to show that a date of 1939 is quite possible. See http://bit.ly/2ukhVou http://bit.ly/2tmCp3n http://bit.ly/2so1B4S http://bit.ly/2tmHzfq ]

EDIT: 1939 seems to be right – ‘The Scotsman’ of 3rd May describes one of Henry’s three works at that year’s RA summer exhibition as “a portrait of a girl in pink”. I’ll check the title at the NAL – it may be in that year’s ‘Royal Academy Illustrated’, too (at least one of his works is).

1 attachment

Osmund, This is all very helpful thanks. We have already raised the issue of the possible connection with 'Mary in the Pink Dress' as that painting titled then simply 'Portrait' was exhibited as #180 in the Royal Academy summer show in 1939. It was reproduced in the RA Pictures publication for 1939 at page 32. The collection has been requested if possible to advise as to the background to the fuller title of 'Mary in a Pink Dress'. Hopefully more to follow. What I do know is that the first named executor of George Henry's will, Sir Thomas Dunlop (second baronet), gifted certain of Henry's paintings in the 1940s to Scottish public collections, presumably at the late artist's behest. Sir Thomas was one of a group of collectors of Henry's work, many of whom were based in Scotland, and I think he and Henry became friendly. It is possible that Sir Thomas provided additional information as 'Portrait' isn't exactly that helpful as a title! It did cross my mind that Henry may have had a lady friend as the same figure does seem to appear in several of the paintings.

Osmund, I am intrigued as to the identity of the lady who was the model for this painting and potentially several others. Young women of similar appearance feature in exhibited works right up until the artist's death, for example the young model in The Connoisseur, which was exhibited at the Glasgow Institute in 1941 (not in a public collection as far as I am aware). These young ladies also feature in the 'Goodwood', Sussex series of paintings from the 1930s. In regard to this particular discussion, I think between you and Lou you have largely resolved the issue raised, subject to confirmation from the GI catalogue of 1922 that the title of the painting is indeed 'Lady in a Green Dress'. Incidentally those catalogues usually have an illustration of Henry's work for that year and it would be good fortune indeed if 'our' painting was illustrated therein. Subject to the views of the Group Leaders, one could continue research into the identity of the woman in the painting or bring the discussion to a close on the basis that we believe the exhibition history has been confirmed, as has the title, and we also have 1922 as the likely date, or thereabouts, of the painting.

Osmund Bullock,

Could we hold fire for little while, Grant, as I may just possibly have some solid information about the sitter(s) soon?

Along with the 1911 Census, the Kensington & Chelsea Electoral Registers happily enable us to construct a pretty complete picture of GH’s residence in London. In 1905, soon after his arrival from Scotland, he appears (as you mention) as the occupier of a studio at 26 Glebe Place, in the heart of artistic Chelsea; this was to remain his place of work until his death 38 years later. His immediate next-door neighbours there over the years included the sculptor Francis Derwent Wood (who lived in the Chelsea Arts Club nearby), George Augustus Holmes, George Washington Lambert (and his sculptor son Maurice), Alfred Egerton Cooper and Charles Cundall. Many of these (including GH himself) were also members of the Chelsea Arts Club, so I don’t think he wanted for friends or company.

Most of them just had a studio in Glebe Place and lived elsewhere, as did GH. In 1905 he took rooms at 89 Sydney Street, 5 or 10 minutes’ walk away, and there he remained for 22 years: his landlords and fellow occupiers of the house throughout were the Minty family. Jacob Minty was a retired policeman – originally an agricultural labourer from Wiltshire, but by 1871 a P.C. with the Met. He died in 1913, and thereafter it was his widow Emily Keziah (1857-1932) who was head of the household – also from a working-class rural background, she was raised in Somerset (though born in E. London). She was a close contemporary of GH’s, and is a possible candidate for the sitter in the “1922” (in fact 1921) ‘Portrait of a Woman’: http://bit.ly/2shfJxL . She would have been 64.

Osmund Bullock,

Also in the Minty household were a son William...and four daughters – Maria (1888-1974), Rachel (1890-1929), Hilda (1898-1979) and Simla Rose (1901-1982). Over the years they and GH must have become quite close – indeed they seem to have become his surrogate family. In around 1928 GH (who was 70) left to live in a house a few hundred yards away at 132 Fulham Road, and at much the same time Mrs Minty gave up Sydney St and joined him there, along with two of her daughters (Maria & Simla). She died four years later, but Maria and Simla remained at Fulham Rd with GH; and though Simla married the following year (1933), she, her husband and Maria (who never married) continued to live there with “Mr Henry”, as they called him, until his death. Indeed they were still all living in the house – perhaps, who knows, bequeathed to them by GH? – after the War and until 1953.

So it seems at least possible (though far from certain) that our sitter(s) may be found among the daughters of the Minty family. I have managed to track down a grandson of the daughters’ brother William, and just yesterday evening made contact with him. He is interested and keen to help, and is in touch with other grandchildren – and indeed with William’s daughter, though she is very elderly (96). I will send him images of the portraits shortly, and I hope we may soon have the answer as to whether or not the women could be his antecedents.

P.S. Grant, you don’t have images (or links to them) for any of the works featuring “young women of similar appearance” that you mentioned in your last post, do you? I will in any case do my best to get to the NAL to see the GI catalogue(s) this week.

This is very helpful Osmund. I think I was inaccurate in the use of the term 'solitary' but George Henry led a somewhat unconventional life for someone as successful as he was as an artist during his time in London in particular. He lost his father when he was only a very small child and although he had a studio in Glasgow he is recorded in the Scottish Censuses as living with his mother, and her brother James Fisher, at 4, Binnie Place, Calton, Glasgow up until the age of about 45 when he moved to London. I too found him in the 1911 Census records living as a lodger with the Minty family in Sydney Street. I also noted the Minty offspring and wondered about their connection, if any, to his subsequent paintings featuring young women, but I hadn't got anywhere near as far as you in establishing the ongoing link to the Mintys. The Fulham Road address is the one in which Henry was living at the time of his death. I visited the studio adjacent to George Henry's studio in Glebe Place a very long time ago and in those days the studios were vast spaces, all very Edwardian in feel, without any living accommodation. I think you are very probably right in suggesting that the Minty daughters are the models for a good number of the pictures. I wonder if they also accompanied him to the Goodwood area in the early 1930s as they could feature in those paintings too? I'll go through images I have of George Henry paintings and I'll post here ones which could possibly feature our model(s).

By chance I noticed that a portrait of George Henry, circa 1940, by T C Dugdale, is held in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland, Scottish National Portrait Gallery. For full details please access via the main Art UK site, under T C Dugdale, RA.

Edward Stone,

Here's the Art UK painting record for the portrait of George Henry by Thomas Cantrell Dugdale (1880–1952) which Grant refers to: http://bit.ly/2uKHAHj

I have been spending some time putting together a photographic record of a large number of George Henry's paintings, in addition to those held on Art UK. This has thrown up some useful insights in regard to some of the Art UK paintings which I'll cover in another post at some point over the next week or two. The purpose of this post is to try to enlist some assistance in the checking the genealogy of the Henry family, especially whether or not Mr Henry ever married. I have searched both the Scottish and the English registers to no avail and concluded originally that he was unmarried. Perhaps Osmund will help me in this if he has the time! What has caused me to think again on this is my review of GH paintings from 1897 up to circa 1909 in which a woman much younger than GH appears with regularity in domestic settings, in fact rather grand settings and probably a house in west London. This has made me wonder whether Mr Henry bought or rented such a house when he came to London circa 1903. Attached please find (1) an image of a watercolour dated 1897 and titled The Engagement Ring depicting this lady. In the background there is a Henry painting of an Japanese subject from the early 1890s; and (2) an image of an oil painting circa I would think 1905/07 titled 'Portrait of the Artist's Wife', which measures 127 x 102 cm and was sold at Sotheby's in 1992. It is of course possible that the auctioneers did not know the correct title but it may be worth assuming just for now that it is correct. The same woman appears, I think, in 'Lady with Goldfish' held by Kirkcaldy Galleries and in several other paintings I have recorded. This is straying off the point of the original discussion but as there seems to be little published material in regard to George Henry after he left Glasgow I think it worthwhile to see whether we can build a more comprehensive record of his life, and his 20th century work, as he is a significant British artist. Osmund has very kindly set out Mr Henry's time as a lodger and later friend of the Minty family which began no later than 1911 (the census record). He may have been with them in Sydney Street a little earlier than that. I have thought since the start of this thread that is was a little unusual for a man of his standing to live in rather modest lodgings. Was the trigger for this the death of his wife or perhaps a separation? It was also around this time that his mother died. In regard to the Minty family I can find no record at present of any GH paintings bearing their names in the titles. That is not to say that they weren't his models from time to time.

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