Completed North West England: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 20th C 26 Is this a portrait of Joseph Ball, Lord Mayor of Liverpool?

Topic: Subject or sitter

Is this a portrait of Joseph Ball, Lord Mayor of Liverpool, 1905–1906?

The presentation of the portrait was reported in The Scotsman, 6th November 1906.

At this time, the collection has no further information on the picture.

Jon Ball, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The sitter has been identified as Captain Alfred Rutherford (1862–1943), Mayor of Bootle (1906–1907). It was discovered that the painting is based on a 1906 mayoral photograph of Captain Rutherford.

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


As the collection may be aware, George Hall Neale exhibited a painting #246 at the Royal Academy summer exhibition 1907 titled 'Alderman J Ball, Lord Mayor of Liverpool, 1905-06'. An extract from the RA exhibitors book is attached. The artist also painted portraits of various other Alderman in Liverpool.

James Hogg,

My aunt's father-in-law, Anthony Shelmerdine, was a Liverpool Alderman in the early decades of the 20th century. Do you know if he was one of the Aldermen painted by George Hall Neale and if so where the portrait might be seen?
Photo attached.

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Osmund Bullock,

I can't find an image of Joseph Ball online; but I don't think it can be him, as the mayoral chain and badge worn by this sitter does not seem to match that of Liverpool. Several views of Liverpool's regalia can be seen on portraits of past mayors, and they are fairly consistent in appearance from both before and after the period of this painting:

I suppose the most logical mayoralty for a portrait in the Atkinson would be Southport, but it doesn't look right for that either (though it may have changed before 1912/13): . Wallasey (only from 1910) and Birkenhead don't look right either.

Though the image could be clearer, a methodical search of mayoral portraits might turn up a match.

Cliff Thornton,

Looks like the civic regalia for Bootle.

I imagine that the portrait mentioned by The Scotsman on 6th November 1906 will have referred to the Hall Neale portrait of Alderman Ball exhibited at the RA in 1907. Would it be possible for the collection to advise the precise extract that appeared in The Scotsman? And also I am wondering how they came across that article, whether recently or were the details with the painting on acquisition? If the latter it would suggest that the sitter is indeed Alderman Ball although as others have commented here there are potentially good reasons as to why the sitter could well be someone else. As far as I am aware, the artist had no significant connection with Scotland. That begs the question as to why The Scotsman reported something about a Liverpool work where neither the artist, or potentially the sitter, had any Scottish roots.

Cliff Thornton,

Can the Collection say if the work is dated, as that should enable the respective Mayor of Bootle to be looked up.

Osmund Bullock,

Well done, Cliff - that's an excellent match for Bootle's regalia: . That portrait is also at the Akinson, suggesting they inherited the Bootle municipal collection.

There is a list of Mayors of Bootle here ; but in fact I've found a reference that makes it pretty likely that this is Captain Alfred Rutherford (1862-1943), Mayor of Bootle 1906-07. In April 1943 the LIverpool Echo reported his death, noting that "...his mayoral portrait in oils, by Mr Hale [sic] Neale hangs in Bootle Town Hall." See attached.

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Osmund Bullock,

Grant, probably no longer relevant, but attached is the short 1906 piece from The Scotsman. I Imagine it was Jon Ball that came across it (rather than the Collection), probably through the BNA website.

I think it's a mistake to see The Scotsman - at least The Scotsman of the early C20th - as only a local-interest newspaper. Like many major regional titles they saw themselves also as a (British) national paper, and routinely reported significant (and less significant) news from all over the country and indeed internationally, much of which has no discernible Scottish connection.

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Osmund, thanks very much for clarifying. As an aside it may be worth noting that at the RA in 1904 (#513), George Hall Neale exhibited a work 'W. Watson Rutherford, Esq, M.P., Lord Mayor of Liverpool'. The sitter of that painting was created a baronet in 1923 and his dates were 1853-1927. As you have discovered he was the brother of Captain Alfred Rutherford, one time Mayor of Bootle, the subject of your earlier post and the possible sitter for the present portrait. I do have some reservations that the Atkinson painting depicts someone aged 44 or 45 (Captain Rutherford was born in 1862). It is possible of course that the portrait was painted after Captain Rutherford ceased to be Mayor of Bootle. Thus Cliff's point about a firm date for the painting would assist resolution if any information is held.

Jon Ball,

Thank you for your comments and research. Yes I am searching for family reasons for Joseph Ball was my 3rd great Uncle. I came across the article in The Scotsman and then searched online for images of George Hall Neale's paintings. Nearly all of them gave a name for the sitter except this one. He has a vague resemblance to my Dad, but I would look for that.
I think the painting depicts mayoral regalia not dissimilar to Liverpool's. (see attached).
I am no art expert, but one strange thing is that this painting is not like any of Neale's other paintings which are much more realistic (traditional?) in style.
Another bit of information I have also attached. It is taken from a review of a Liverpool Art exhibition in The Manchester Courier. It seems as if the first attempt at the portrait wasn't considered satisfactory?
Not sure this helps at all, like you I think we need information from the Atkinson Museum.

The comments from Jon are very useful. He is right in identifying that the Atkinson painting is not in Hall Neale's formal style for his presentation portraits, which tend to have a tightly painted signature, and a date, as well as a certain rigidity of execution. This work suggests a more sketchy approach on a large scale, perhaps a final sketch prior to completion of the presentation portrait? The point Jon makes about there being two versions of the painting of Alderman John Ball is also helpful but given other research undertaken I am not so sure that this particular work is of his late relative.

I have pursued Osmund's line of thinking in regard to the Rutherford family and have located an image of W Watson Rutherford from 1904, also painted by Hall Neale, which is attached. W Watson Rutherford would have been about 51 years of age when this work was painted. There is a likeness here to his brother, Captain Alfred Rutherford. In my opinion this is a typical example of Hall Neale's presentation portrait.

Oliver Perry,

George Hall Neale was actually the brother in law of Alfred and William Watson Rutherford. From a BNA search (I don't have full access):

Liverpool Echo Monday 29 April 1940

"About 20 years ago he and Mrs. Hall- Neale, who was formerly Miss Maud Rutherford, sister of the late Sir Watson Rutherford, herself accomplished portrait painter, moved to London. "

She was actually born Alice Maud, and appears as "Alice M Rutherford" in the census returns.

Osmund Bullock,

It doesn't helps much, but Hall Neale's portrait of Alfred Rutherford was exhibited at the Liverpool Walker Gallery Autumn Exhibition of 1907 - an admiring mention of it and others (but no picture or description) in 'The Studio' of 15/10/1907:

The NAL has the catalogue - but they were not illustrated until 1912, so the best we could hope for is a measurement (and even that's unlikely).

Cliff Thornton,

For information, the local authority known as Sefton was established in 1974. This new authority encompassed both Bootle and Southport, two previously independent local councils. This may explain why portraits which once hung in Bootle Town Hall, now come to hang in the Atkinson in Southport

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks for clarifying, Cliff, I had wondered - though the modernity of the Sefton mayoral badge (very 1970s) had led me to suspect something like that!

Jon Ball,

I've found it! Not the original but a photo. George Hall Neale exhibited this portrait of Joseph Ball at the Liverpool Academy of Arts Centenary Exhibition 1910. It is much more traditional than the Rutherford portrait. Liverpool Central Library has a book of photos of the exhibits.
Now does anyone know where the original is?

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Osmund Bullock,

Well done, Jon. So, as we had deduced, ours is not the (or even *a*) portrait of Joseph Ball; and I'm afraid that means that unless you think the one of him you've found is also to be found somewhere on Art UK, it's really outside our remit of researching works in public collections to do further work on its whereabouts. If you live in or ever visit London, the National Portrait Gallery's Heinz Library & Archive is open to the public by appointment, and they have several resources that might help you track it down, especially if it's ever been sold at auction. The staff are very friendly and helpful.

Osmund Bullock,

As to the portrait under discussion, a year or more ago the Collection was asked a couple of times if the work is dated, but without any response. A date would be very helpful in determining if this is indeed likely to be the portrait of Captain Alfred Rutherford.

Looking at the bottom right, there does appear to be something - possibly a date - written beneath the 'G. HALL NEALE' signature. Marion, could we perhaps see a high-res of that corner?

Paul Jackson,

This is all wonderful and I'm pleased with some efforts here. BUT. Can anyone produce a picture/portrait of Captain Alfred Rutherford's wife?
She was born Elizabeth Ann Jackson Rogers and married James Wilson then Alfred in 1899. She was commonly known as Lily and she is my great, great aunt.

Osmund Bullock,

I shouldn't really be doing this, Paul, as Art Detective is not a free family history service, and your query doesn't relate directly to any work on Art UK (as it must do to be discussed here)...but since I had it saved anyway as part of my research into what her husband looked like, here you go. Attached.

Manto Psarelli,

Thank you to all who contributed to this discussion. Special thanks to Osmund Bullock for his research as well as Stephen Whittle, curator at the Atkinson Art Gallery, for some great investigating work which produced a mayoral photograph of Alfred Rutherford. I am delighted to recommend to Art UK that we close this now and update the sitter to ‘Captain Alfred Rutherford (1862 –1943), Mayor of Bootle (1906–1907).