Forward British 20th C, except portraits, London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 20th C, Sculpture 16 Is this bust by William F. C. Ohly? Can the sitter be identified?

LW_CWH_ARTUK1_001
Topic: Artist

This work is dated (1935) and signed (Ohly).

I believe this could be William F. C. Ohly (1883–1955), an emigré artist and art dealer born in Germany but active in the UK as a printer, painter and sculptor. See https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/term_details.aspx?bioId=138225

I am at present unable to identify the sitter, but in 1955 at Ohly's gallery there was a retrospective exhibition of his work (catalogue at the Victoria and Albert Museum) – perhaps this bust was exhibited there.

Barbara Pezzini 01, Entry reviewed by Art UK

16 comments

Jacinto Regalado,

According to the British Museum and Ohly's Wikipedia entry, he was born in Kingston upon Hull and moved with his family to Germany in 1897. He returned to the UK before WWI but went back to Germany after the war, and then left Germany for good in 1934, settling in North London (New Barnet).

Jacinto Regalado,

The catalogue mentioned above is also apparently at the Tate.

Barbara Pezzini 01,

Thank you Jacinto, that information should support authorship/date - next time I am at the NAL or Tate I will try to look at the catalogue to see if the style of the artist could also support authorship.

Betty Elzea,

There is a good deal more about him in 'Provenance', pp.104-109. My copy was published by Paul Holberton in 2009. The article about him was by Hermione Waterfield. Ohly left Germany in 1934. I was taken on a visit to the Abbey Art Centre as a very ignorant and naive art student in about 1949-50, by my friend the dealer John Hewett. The communal art centre was flourishing at that time. I was given a small roundel of stained glass made by one of the artists (the name escapes me). I still have it.

Betty Elzea,

There must be a reason for this portrait bust being at the hospital - a staff member or a trustee, or a benefactor?

Jacinto Regalado,

In 1935, the date of the bust, it would presumably have been in St Stephen's Hospital in Chelsea (the current Chelsea and Westminster Hospital only dates from 1993).

Martin Hopkinson,

It could also have come from St Mary Abbot's Hospital in Marloes Road, West London Hospital in Hammersmith Road, Westminster Hospital in Horseferry Road,Westminster Hospital Medical School in Page Street or Westminster Children's Hospital in St Vincent's Square
It would be worth looking through the exhibition catalogues of the annual exhibitions of Royal Society of British Sculptors and the like

His interest in ethnographic art may mean that Emeritus Professor Malcolm McLeod, formerly Director of the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery may have information on the sculptor

Jacinto Regalado,

Checking the catalogue of Ohly's retrospective exhibition (mentioned above) clearly looks like the next step.

Martin Hopkinson,

He exhibited one work in 1937 at the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts
Unfortunately the online Mapping the Practice and Profession in Britain & Ireland does not go beyond 1951

Martin Hopkinson,

Dr Monica Bohm-Duchen, based in London, is very knowledgeable about artists who settled in Britain in the 1930s to escape Fascist oppression

Osmund Bullock,

The connection is likely to have been with St Stephen's, as in 1935 Ohly was living in Netherton Grove, which ran down the west side of the old hospital, as it does that of the new Chelsea & Westminster. See https://bit.ly/302tIsc; go to p.131 (130 as paginated). By the following year's summer exhibition he had moved to Maida Vale.

Martin Hopkinson,

The London Metropolitan Archives should hold some of the papers of the period which should provide the names of prominent staff
LCC/ MIN /2663-2666
See also in The Bishopsgate Librsry C M Howgrave- Grave, The little hospital in Chelsea .. 1978
also held by The Society of Antiquaries of London

Martin Hopkinson,

Professor Margaret Garlake may have done some research on Ohly
His family may well have originated in the early 19th century in Hamburg making yeasts and spirits in 1836 - the Heinrich Helbing Korn Distillery

Martin Hopkinson,

Worldcat has a long list of publications issued by Ohly's Berkeley Galleries - it was there that his memorial exhibition of painting and sculpture was held
One exhibition was devoted to Bernard Leach - 1946- another in 1945 to Henry Moore and Matthew Smith.

Martin Hopkinson,

He was a friend of a fellow emigre artist,calligrapher and typeface designer and bookcover designer for Faber & Faber, Berthold Wolpe see Sarah Dawood, Design Week, 21 March 2018 discussing an exhibition of 2018 at the Lettering Arts Centre in Suffolk, put together by Phil Cleaver and the artist's daughter Deborah Hopson-Wolpe.

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