Completed London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C, Portraits: British 20th C 60 Is the 'Young Woman' in E. H. Shepard's portrait really his sister, Ethel?

Portrait of a Young Woman
Topic: Subject or sitter

An author of a book about the artist E. H. Shepard (the 'Winnie-the-Pooh' illustrator) recently wrote a story for Art UK, mentioning a work in the Newport Museum and Art Gallery collection, 'Portrait of a Young Woman'.

The story can be read here:
http://bit.ly/1TOaW1H

James Campbell says:

‘Shepard painted relatively few portraits… however… Shepard tells us: ‘I persuaded Ethel [Shepard’s sister] to sit for me. It was an ordinary portrait, but it was accepted by the Royal Academy and hung on the line at the Summer Exhibition, the only success I have ever had with a portrait.’

Until now, it has always been thought that this portrait was purchased at the Summer Exhibition: Shepard makes no further reference to it, and it is not catalogued in his personal archive. From the context it would seem likely that this portrait of Ethel Shepard was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1902, the same year that the Newport Museum and Art Gallery's 'Portrait of a Young Woman' was acquired. Ethel Shepard was of a similar age to the woman pictured in this portrait, and so might this be the ‘missing’ portrait of Ethel? Further enquiries may perhaps throw more light on this intriguing mystery.’

Jade Audrey King, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The conclusion is that the portrait is unlikely to represent E. H. Shepard’s sister, Ethel.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.

59 comments

Osmund Bullock,

Ernest Shepard's portrait of 'Miss Ethel Shepard' was exhibited at the R.A. in 1901, one of two works he showed there that year. If, as seems likely, this is that portrait, then it was perhaps purchased at the R.A. by a private buyer who gave it to the museum the following year. I presume James Campbell has been in touch with the collection to know the acquisition year - a pity if that's all the info they have.

Other than that the obvious course would be to try and find a photograph of Ethel, but again I imagine that Mr Campbell, as a Shepard biographer, must have explored that angle: indeed I see that a 'Minette Shepard' wrote the Foreword, so he's clearly in touch with the family.

According to Graves’ ‘Royal Academy Exhibitors’, Shepard’s ‘Portrait of Miss Ethel Shepard’ was in fact exhibited in 1901 (cat. no. 391). Unfortunately an image of this painting was not included in ‘Royal Academy Illustrated’ for 1901.

Dave Evans,

Although I would imagine that the author is well aware of it's existence the University of Surrey Library holds a Shepard archive which includes photographs of Ethel Shepard (cat nos EHS/F/9), unfortunately they are dated as being c1935 so may not be of too much help in identifying a much younger Ethel), the archive catalogue is online and searchable here http://calmarchivecat.surrey.ac.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=EHS

Osmund Bullock,

Ethel Jessie Shepard was not EHS's younger sister, as some sources state (e.g. http://www.pooh-corner.org/shepard.shtml ) - she was the eldest of the three siblings, born in August 1876, and would have been no more than 24 when this (really extremely nice) portrait was taken.

Inasmuch as it's sensible to speculate about a sitter's character from a portrait, I would say that this young woman seems intelligent and serious-minded, and in conventional terms is plainly no great beauty. So I am unsurprised to discover that, after initially working as a music teacher, in 1923 Ethel Shepard became a missionary in India, and ultimately Head Deaconess of St Hilda's Society in Lahore. Her life was effectively that of a Protestant nun, and she never married. She made very occasional trips home, staying with her surviving brother Ernest - the third sibling, Harry, with whom she had lived before the war, was killed in action on the Somme in 1916. She died in Nov 1941 back in England "after a long illness" . I feel increasingly confident that this is her.

James Campbell is not just in touch with the family, he is in fact *of* the family - he is the son-in-law of Minette Hunt (née Shepard), EHS's granddaughter, and runs the Shepard Trust. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3296906/Poignant-sketches-Winnie-Pooh-illustrator-E-H-Shepard-World-War-trenches-discovered-trunk-not-opened-100-years.html .

Minette was only four when her aunt Ethel died in 1941, and having been taken to Canada at the beginning of the war, may never have met her. Nevertheless I cannot but think that she, John Campbell and the Trust are in the best position to know if this is Ethel or not - surely the family must have some pre-WWI, or at least pre-1920 photos of her?

This discussion, namely “Is the 'Young Woman' in E.H. Shepard's portrait really his sister, Ethel?”, is about a portrait purchased by Newport Museum and Art Gallery in 1902. The discussion has attracted five comments, made on 12 and 13 April 2016. A portrait of Ethel was exhibited by Shepard at the Royal Academy in 1901. As Osmund states, what would be needed to prove the identity would be early photographs of Ethel. In their absence the attractive idea that the portrait represents Ethel remains unproven. On this basis, unless further evidence is submitted, and subject to the agreement of Catherine as Group Leader for 20th Century Portraits, I propose that this discussion should be closed.

Catherine

Further to Jacob Simon's summary of this discussion from 13 October, would you be kind enough to indicate any thoughts on this discussion and Jacob's proposition that this discussion should now be closed. Thank you.

Kieran Owens,

In 'The Work of E.H. Shepard', by Rawle Knox (Methuen, 1979), the author writes the following regarding the two works that Shepard showed at the RA Summer Exhibition in 1901:

"In 1901 he showed 'A Devonshire Valley', painted at Kingswear, as well as a portrait, 'Miss Ethel Shepard' (Ethel was always patiently ready to sit, particularly for the head; she had long thick fair hair which she never cut."

If Ethel's hair is accurately described here, it does not match the hair on the head of this Discussion's sitter, in either colour or length.





Kieran Owens,

P.S. Shepard's daughter Mary was Rawle Knox's stepmother, so the source of the information has credibility.

Kieran Owens,

Ahhhh, sorry. Scrap that idea. Mary was not born until 1905!!!

Howard Jones,

I believe E H Shepard died in 1976 having been born in 1879 so a good innings. If his older Sister was born in 1876 he would have died one hundred years after her birth.

It is a pity that no one checked with Mr Shepard to ask about the Newport painting while he was still alive before 1976.

Kieran Owens,

Is there any accession information from 1902 that would explain why this portrait was purchased by Newport? Given that Shepard, at the age of 23, would have only been at the start of his artistic career, might the purchase have been made due to the sitter's association with Wales? Are there existing minutes or records that might throw light on this suggestion?

Howard Jones,

The Wonersh Village website has a photograph of the gravestone of Florence Shepard, the sister in law of Ethel. The inscription gives details of other family members.

My Chromebook questions whether this is a secure internet site but I am not sure why.

Louis Musgrove,

Oh er-- Yes Howard-- I hadn't noticed- my browser says Wonersh site is insecure as well-- by my anti virus hasn't detected anything---ok to look - but dont upload anything.

Osmund Bullock,

I think you may mean download rather than upload, Louis!

It has never been clear if this discussion was requested by James Campbell, or if Jade & Art UK took it upon themselves to start it after reading his 2016 AUK 'story' about the missing portrait of Ethel (http://bit.ly/1TOaW1H). Either way I was and remain puzzled that he was apparently not able to answer the basic question of the sitter's identity himself.

As I noted 4½ years ago, he is the son-in-law of Minette Hunt (née Shepard), EHS's granddaughter, and apparently still runs the Shepard Trust, which I understand holds much of the family's archive. Though Mrs Hunt probably never met Ethel (who died in 1941, when her great-niece was four and in Canada), surely she, Mr Campbell and the Trust are in a far better position than us to know what Ethel (and indeed EHS's wife Florence) looked like? To repeat myself, do they not have any pre-WWI, or at least pre-1920 photos of both women? Actually even a later one of Ethel would be helpful if it shows her in profile.

I'd be grateful, too if Jade could clarify the circumstances that led to the discussion. Art UK must have been in touch with Mr Campbell in 2016 anyway, and I assume that at the very least they checked with him if he knew who the sitter was. Was he, rather surprisingly, seeking to establish the identity - or was he just hoping to fill in the gap in its provenance to prove it was the same one that had been shown at the R.A.? Oh, and the usual questions seem not to have been asked of the Collection: is there anything in the way of labels, inscriptions, etc, on the back? And (as Kieran says) do Newport's records show why and from whom it was purchased, if that's correct - and if it isn't, any other information about its acquisition?

Could we perhaps pause the closure, Jacob, Catherine and David? I'm sorry we let this one drift so long ago - in my view it's a delightful portrait, and there's a chance it may be a most interesting one. Now that we have a fuller and very on-the-ball admin team at AD, I think it's worth having another concerted bash at it.

Louis Musgrove,

I have contacted archives@surrey.ac.uk -Harriet Costello-. They have two photos of Ethel- one a family group in Guernsey in 1903- this is not available due to copyright-- and one from 1930- on board ship with E.H. - this is out of copyright and is available for a fee-only £2--but it cannot be share or copied or published in any way -- only for personal research --and one has to fill in a copyright application form. As ART UK is just a hobby for me- I don't want to do this- but perhaps someone official from ART UK could obtain this photo and privately compare it. P.S. I did this as I am a Surrey alumnus-- mind you, a long time ago :-) .

Mark Wilson,

If the quote that Keiran gives from Rawle Knox is accurate, this seems unlikely to be a simple portrait of Ethel. It's true that Mary only became his stepmother in 1937 when he was 24 (she was only four years older) and so he might not have have had long to know Ethel and would not have known her when she was young. He also spent much of his life away from England in the War and then as a foreign correspondent for the Observer and Telegraph. But Mary didn't die till 2000 and must have had a lot input into the 1979 publication, which was frequently reprinted.

But Keiran's later question is relevant as well - why did Newport buy a painting in 1902 from a young, unknown artist with no obvious local or Welsh connections? Especially in a genre he never really specialised in. I wonder if some clue is in the picture itself - the woman's dress, the headband in particular, has a sort of Celtic Revival feel to it.

Rather than a simple portrait of an individual, could this be more symbolic or generic? Individual portraits in strict profile are unusual, though not unknown. This might be a portrayal of Young Wales or something similar. Of course Shepard could still have used Ethel as a model and changed her hair colour to something more suitable.

Come to think of it, how do we even know if this is by Shepard? I can't see any signature (though that's probably me missing the obvious) and there's so few similar pictures by him, that you can't really match on stylistic grounds. The collection's records should shed more light on the history.

Howard Jones,

Would the appearance of this painting be changed if it was cleaned. This is not a complaint as the portrait is very good but the yellow and brown tinges are like colours associated with a smokey environment. If the portrait has been in Newport Museum and Gallery since the year it was made then it should look much as it did on the day when the artist painted it.

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, many varnishes yellow with time whatever the environment, especially older ones made with natural resins - the deposit of tar from tobacco smoke is a separate issue. And even in storage (unless wrapped) paintings also acquire a layer of dirt on top of the varnish, which can get sealed in if the painting is re-varnished without prior cleaning. Furthermore humid/damp storage conditions attract mould growth (which can also take the form of yellowy-brown staining)...and to complicate matters further, unventilated wrapping may make that worse.

Our painting is indeed in a bit of a state in many ways, but that could easily have happened in well over a hundred years of gallery / museum storage (much of it in the days when such things were incredibly slapdash). It could certainly do with some skilled conservation work; but even then I can't see her hair magically becoming fair (if that's what you're wondering), though it may well go more towards auburn.

Louis Musgrove,

I have heard from Harriet Costello of Surrey Uni archives. She has kindly compared our sitter to the Shepard family photo of 1903,thus avoiding copyright problems ,and is of the opinion that our sitter is not Ethel. Ethel has sharper features. If an official of Art UK wants to verify by private research they can contact her :- archives@surrey.ac.uk

Howard Jones,

Could this be a different painting from the same Royal Academy Exhibition in 1902? This is all getting a bit odd.

Osmund Bullock,

Howard, if you read the whole discussion you will see that Shepard exhibited just two paintings at the R.A. in 1901 (not 1902, when he did not exhibit) - one was a Devon landscape and the other his portrait of Ethel. The introduction furthermore quotes him as saying that the portrait of his sister was "the only success I have ever had with a portrait", which in the context clearly means it was the only one he showed at the R.A. He implies that he painted other portraits that were not exhibited, and ours could be one of those; or as Mark suggests, it may not really be a portrait as such at all. Or of course it may be the one of Ethel as originally suggested (though that's beginning to look doubtful).

We clearly do need to hear from Newport to answer the various questions raised in previous posts. And is there any news from Art UK about James Campbell? Were they in touch with him when the discussion began, and/or are they trying to get in touch with him and the Shepard Trust now? Without input from either source, there is really nowhere to go with this, and the discussion might as well be closed.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks, Louis, for your efforts with Surrey University Archives. It's hard to know how to respond, as "sharper features" is a pretty vague assessment - the important question was to do with her hair colour, and that is unfortunately not addressed. I am happy to fund the £2 fee for the (?)later photo, but if it cannot be shown on here that doesn't help us much.

Since the copyright holder of both photos is, I would guess, the Shepard Trust (and they will doubtless have their own copies), I would hope that they / James Campbell would be able to clear us for a perhaps time-limited usage of a suitable detail from one or both images, or perhaps supply them or others themselves - assuming, of course, that they show someone who might possibly be our sitter. But Kieran's discovery about Ethel’s hair throws that into doubt...as does the appearance of Ethel's two brothers Ernest and Cyril - I'm afraid I can see little or nothing in their faces of a family resemblance to our sitter. Florence looks a *little* more likely; but we need to see a profile, as we do of Ethel. See attached composite.

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Louis Musgrove,

Qsmund- Harriet did mention that in the 1903 photo Ethel did have long dark hair like our sitter--- I didn't mention it above as she seemed quite convinced that Ethel did not LOOK like our sitter.

Jacinto Regalado,

Our sitter has a small bump on the upper part of her nose which seems conspicuously absent from the noses of Ernest and Cyril, and probably Florence as well.

Howard Jones,

In reply to Osmund above I was not questioning whether there was a second portrait from the Exhibition painted by E H Shepard, I was suggesting this might be a different painting from the same Exhibition painted by some other artist who was also exhibiting at the same time. This picture could be by a different artist altogether and show someone who had no connection to Shepard.

The painted was listed by the Newport Gallery as being by Shepard but do we know if that claim was correct? As he painted so few oil paintings we do not have other portraits to compare it with.

Louis Musgrove,

Howard yes- As someone suggested above- why should Newport but a picture of Ethel-- more likely they would buy a portrait of a notable Welsh person-- like for instance -- the Marshioness of Anglesea- whose photo has many similarities to our sitter.Like the bump on the Nose and the shape of the chin .
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victoria_Marjorie_Harriet_Paget_{LPARENTHESES} née_Manners),_Marchioness_of_Anglesey_by_George_Charles_Beresford_(1900s).jpg

Osmund Bullock,

Ah, right, Howard. Yes, Mark raised that possibility a few days ago, and I agree that we need to have it confirmed by the Collection. But I can't quite see the logic of the idea: if it is a painting by someone else, how did the unlikely name of Shepard become associated with it in the first place? Are we/you suggesting that Newport acquired two different paintings at about the same time, one by another artist bought from the R.A. exhibition, and one by Shepard acquired elsewhere...and that the two have exchanged identities? It seems very convoluted (though not impossible).

In any case, I don't think even that scenario makes much sense: surely it is only James Campbell in his Art UK story who brought the R.A. into the equation in the first place? He discovered that Newport had a portrait recorded as being by Shepard and purchased in 1902 - at this point we don't know where. He had the idea that it might be the lost portrait of Ethel exhibited at the R.A. at roughly the right time (1901 as it turned out). But other than that we have no evidence that it came from a R.A. exhibition; and until Newport can access their records (and/or the back of the painting itself) we have no reason to believe that it did.

Osmund, it was James Campbell who brought the RA into the equation in the first place. Most of the discussion topic is a direct quote from his story.

Jade has confirmed that when Art UK published the story by James Campbell they thought they should involve Art Detective, since the story describes uncertainty about the sitter. The story text is the only information we have from Campbell.

I've asked for the collection's help in checking their records and the back of the picture when they can.

Newport Museum and Art Gallery,

Good morning all.

The painting by EH Shepard was acquired by Newport Museum & Art Gallery in 1902 and is a recorded as an RA student's work. We do not have on record whether it was exhibited as such.

The stretcher bears the following inscription: 'Painted under the visitorship of G.H. Broughton RA by E.H. Shepard'. It is somewhat unclear I am afraid but I hope the attached image helps. Could this be G.H. Boughton?

Kind regards,
Newport Museum and Art Gallery

Newport Museum and Art Gallery, thank you for checking your files and the back of the picture.

George Henry Boughton RA seems more likely. The student is recorded as 'E. H. Shephard' not 'Shepard'.

Howard Jones,

George Henry Boughton 1833-1905 was an American artist well known for his depiction of the Return of the Mayflower and for painting other historical scenes of the early Puritans.

He was also an important illustrator whose work included illustrations for Longfellow's poetry and for Washington Irving's 'Rip van Winkle'. If Boughton was linked in anyway to Shepard's early artistic development his special interest in illustration might have influenced the course of E H Shepard's own career.

Ernest Howard Shepard was born on 10 December 1879 so today, by odd coincidence, is his birthday. According to ODNB, he went to Hatherley's art school for one year when he was 16 (starting in 1896 after turning 16 in December 1895) then the RA Schools for five years,1897 to 1902, the year that Newport got this painting, reportedly by purchase but from what source has not yet been stated (if known).

It would certainly be very odd for a Welsh public collection to purchase such an item by a then completely unknown young artist with no local connection, unless an exhibited item. We have also already learnt that the 'Ethel' portrait was not shown that year but in 1901, so even if it is Ethel, there is something as yet unaccounted going on in between display and acquisition. If it isn't Ethel, then the reasons Newport obtained it at all in 1902 are even more unaccountable.

Is it indeed by E.H. Shepard or another E.H. Shephard/Shepherd? I think one has to assume it probably the 'famous one' from the inscription on the stretcher, though with both his and Boughton's name wrongly spelt by some third party who was at least aware of the latter's RA 'visitorship' - also assuming that aspect of the statement is correct. Even without another likeness of Ethel the current balance of probability - albeit tenuous - is more 'pro' than 'contra' that it is her and the picture shown in 1901.

Kieran Owens,

Without proof, however, it should not be titled as being Ethel.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, could you post a hi-res image of the signature, which appears bottom right?

Osmund Bullock,

Boughton did indeed teach at the R.A. Schools, as his Times obituary mentions (attached). The R.A. Archives must hold more information on this, perhaps in his member’s file: https://bit.ly/39VivRJ. He was elected a full R.A. in March 1896 (A.R.A. in 1879), and died less than nine years later, so this is the right period.

I've looked in some detail at the Newport collection, which contains 601 artworks on Art UK, both oils and sculptures. Of these over half (313) are said to have been purchased. However, this programme of buying really only got under way, albeit intermittently, in the 1920s, accelerated somewhat in the 30s & 40s, and took off energetically after WWII.

There are just nine works listed as purchased before 1920, of which four are a strangely disparate lot: in 1901 there was a very large C17th (or C17th style) Dutch kitchen scene, 7 ft wide; and then one work each in 1914, 1915 and 1919 – two of poor quality, one a local view, but otherwise no apparent reason for acquisition. However in 1902, extraordinarily, there were no less than FIVE purchases, including ours. See https://bit.ly/33WO4a2. All are portraits – perhaps 'types' rather than identifiable sitters, but in my view all taken using live models. And now it gets interesting...

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Osmund Bullock,

The three different artists responsible - Ernest Howard Shepard, (James) Philip Sidney Streatfeild and Frederick George Swaish - were all born in the second half of 1879, and they were almost exact student contemporaries at the R.A. Schools (1897-1902 for Shepard and Streatfeild, 98-03 Swaish). Furthermore, all lived in the same house in Chelsea, 52 Glebe Place. Shepard and Swaish were there in 1901-1902, listed in both the Electoral Register (1902/3) and the Census of 31 Mar 1901, the same spring that Shepard exhibited his first two works at the RA Summer Exhibn from the same address. By the 1903/4 Electoral Roll (probably taken in Oct 1903) Shepard & Swaish have gone, but Philip Streatfeild has moved in. Shepard's next R.A. exhibits, in 1903 &1904;, are from an address in Blackheath, before moving with his new wife Florence (of Sep 1904) to Arden Cottage at Shamley Green near Guildford for 1905, and then to Red Cottage there by Christmas 1909 and beyond.

Streatfeild's first two R.A. outings were also in 1901, and his Chelsea address then was just round the corner from Shepard & Swaish, at a studio in Manresa Road which he seems to have briefly retained after moving to Glebe Place. Swaish meanwhile had to wait till 1907 for his R.A. debut, and interestingly his address is then also at Shamley Green, though in a different cottage to Shepard and his wife – perhaps all the cottages were on the same estate, though I haven’t looked into that. Swaish was still in his (Well Cottage) when he exhibited again the following year, but by 1910 had moved to a village on the Bath side of his native Bristol – the closest I can get to a geographical connection with Newport.

Osmund Bullock,

So we have three young artist friends, two of them (Shepard and Swaish) perhaps particularly close, all studying together at the same art school. For some reason a group of five similarly-themed paintings by them – all (if the 1902 acquisition date is to be believed) likely student works, and all very good – are purchased by a public art gallery with no apparent connection to the artists or their subjects, and that very seldom bought *any* paintings in this period. Boughton (who also has no known connection with Wales) is likely to have taught them all, and indeed the subject of one of Swaish’s paintings, the 'Puritan Soldier', has affinities with Boughton’s own work. Boughton’s name is demonstrably associated with at least one of them, though mis-spelled in the inscription; but the information in that inscription nevertheless fits in with the little we know.

It is mysterious indeed that the person from (or via) whom Shepard’s work was bought is apparently not recorded, but perhaps there will be a clearer explanation in the files for one or more of the others. To look there is the obvious next step: I am very grateful to Newport for what they have done for us already, but I’m afraid your job is not yet done! And should you draw another blank, then it gets even worse: we will need you, if and when at all possible, to examine and preferably photograph the backs of the other four paintings too...sorry.

Amazing detective work, Osmund. It is almost certainly these paintings whose acquisition was reported in the Star of Gwent newspaper on 20 December 1901, at the foot of column 4 in the attachment, without naming the artists but referring to them as students at the Royal Academy.

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Kieran Owens,

The Western Daily Press, of Wednesday 4th June 1902, reported that a "Mr. Alfred Swaish be elected a member of the Museum Committee of the Newport Corporation."

By 1915, Alfred Swaish was a J.P. and Councillor for Newport. He was a cousin of Sir John Swaish, Frederick's father, who was Lord Mayor of Bristol from 1913 to 1915, and who was knighted in 1920. All of them feature in the attached funeral notice for Frederick's mother, who died in January 1915. She was buried at Canford Cemetery, Westbury on Trym, Bristol, where Sir John himself was buried following his death in 1931. Newport and Bristol are less than 20 miles apart across the Severn River. The funeral notice appeared in the Western Daily Press of Thursday 21st January 1915.

In Canford cemetery are buried the following:

Sir John Swaish (1852 - 1931)
Sarah Swaish (née Rowland) (1851 - 1915)

and their two sons

Ernest Swaish (1877 - 1932)
Frederick George Swaish (1879 - 1931)

F. G. Swish's portrait of his father, when the latter was Lord Mayor of Bristol (but before being knighted), can be seen on Art UK here:

https://bit.ly/37OZfTy

On the basis of the above, it is quite possible, if not highly probable, that the Newport collection's works of three friends at the start of their artistic careers were purchased by or through the influence of Albert Swaish, Frederick George Swaish's close relative.

We don't seem to have a high-resolution image for this painting, but I'll find out why. The painting isn't signed as far as I can see from downloading and enlarging the image from Art UK.

Osmund Bullock,

Thank you both for your very kind comments, and for filling in the missing links so quickly. I feel that Kieran’s hypothesis is extremely likely.

Alfred was actually born and baptised as 'Swash' [sic], on 5th Nov 1860 at Neath, the son of John Swash, a Bristol-born boot & shoe maker in the town, and he continued with that spelling throughout his life. The funeral mention as 'Swaish' is understandable in the context - it seems to have been his Bristol cousins who at some point changed it. I'm sure we can pin down when that happened, and exactly what Frederick's relationship to Arthur was.

Oh, and attached is an earlier (Sep 1901) press mention of what's almost certainly the same purchase, though the paper or their informant has the story slightly wrong. It remains possible, however, that the one by Shepard was indeed the portrait of his sister hung at the Summer Exhibition, and remained unsold when it closed on 5th Aug. But it's puzzling that it wasn't retained by the family.

When I reviewed this discussion on 13 October, “Is the 'Young Woman' in E.H. Shepard's portrait really his sister, Ethel?”, I had no idea that my post would excite a further 46 posts after four year’s silence since the five initial comments made in April 2016. The discussion is about a portrait purchased for Newport Museum and Art Gallery, reputedly in 1902, and the claim that it may be identified with a portrait of Shepard’s sister, Ethel, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1901.

What have we learnt in the last two months? The Surrey University Archive has compared our portrait to a Shepard family photograph of 1903 and reports that the features do not match those of Shepard’s sister, Ethel (posts by Louis, 19 and 20 November).

It now appears from local press reports that portraits by Royal Academy students were purchased for the Newport collection as early as September 1901 (post by Osmund, 11 December). Perhaps the traditional 1902 acquisition date indicates when the portraits were registered by the museum.

Further, and remarkably, this portrait appears to have been one of a group of five by three Royal Academy students living together purchased for the collection at the same time (posts by Osmund, 10 December). The purchases appear to have been made through the enthusiasm of the culturally attuned Newport architect councillor, Alfred Swaish, who was related to one of the young artists (post by Kieran, 11 December).

From an inscription on the reverse of the portrait in question, it was made under the visitorship of George Henry Boughton, the ‘visitor’, that is one of the supervising artists, at the Royal Academy Schools (post by Newport Museum, 8 December). If as seems the portrait is not of Shepard’s sister, could it be that of a fellow student at the RA Schools (women were admitted students from 1860)?

We have answered the subject under discussion, identifying that the portrait is unlikely to represent the artist’s sister, Ethel. Let us see if there are further contributions in the next couple of weeks before we close this discussion.

That admirably OK (Osmund & Kieran) demonstration of lateral thinking neatly plugs the 'process' gap between 'Ethel' appearing at the RA in 1901 and her possible move to Newport from 1902: not yet proof, but increase in likelihood. It's not a great puzzle that (if 'Ethel' and unsold at exhibition) such a portrait was not retained in the family: it's a case of the sitter being used as model for a 'post-PRB' type' and if James Campbell is right in saying that Ethel often sat for her brother, the Shepards probably had more personally individualistic examples, as drawings or in oil. If hung at the RA, it was also presumably there as for potential sale so there's no great 'puzzle' in EHS parting with it later, especially if he knew (as he must have done) that it was bought as one of a group representing his friends and student contemporaries. A 'Museum committee' purchase - as it the Newport group was - will also be noted in formal minutes (at least) buried somewhere.

Howard Jones,

There do not appear to be many examples of Shepard's 'portrait' or landscape painting as almost all of his work on the web concerns his artwork as an illustrator.

One exception, a painting called 'The eve of April', was sold by Christie's 16th June 2010. The woman depicted instead of looking at the artist is looking away and becomes part of the garden scene. I think it says it was signed with the initials E.S.

http://goldenagepaintings.blogspot.com/2010/06/ernest-howard-shepard-eve-of-april.html

This site mentions the occasions when he exhibited at the RA Exhibition. The title of the painting looks as if it might be cryptic.

Subject to feedback from the collection and from other group leaders, I recommend that this discussion now be closed. See my summing up posted 11 December, based on excellent research by Osmund and Kieran.

The collection's Manager sends many thanks to all concerned.

I'll wait to hear whether the other group leaders have any final comments before closing the discussion.

Thomas Ardill, Curator,

I agree with Jacob that this discussion can be closed, all the great detective work having answered the original question, even if the sitter remains unknown.