Completed East of England: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C, Portraits: British 20th C 16 Is this portrait by Harry Clifford Pilsbury (1870–1925)?

Topic: Artist

This work is strikingly similar to another portrait of the sitter in Peterborough Town Hall - see link. Could they be by the same artist?

Al Brown, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade King,

This discussion is now closed. The artwork is now listed as by Harry Clifford Pilsbury (1870–1925) (attributed to).

Many thanks for all the contributions that led to this conclusion. If anyone has further information about this artwork, please propose a new discussion by following the link from the artwork page on Art UK.


Edward Stone,

The collection comments that it is likely the two portraits were painted by the same artist. Any evidence supporting this would be welcome.

I notice that in addition to the identified portrait of Daniel Harry Redhead by Pilsbury, Peterborough also has two other portraits by this artist of Sir Frederick Henry Royce and John Thomas Miller respectively, both of which are stated to have been commissioned as civic portraits. At the time the latter portraits were commissioned (1912 and 1914 respectively) Pilsbury was living at Whittlesea, Peterborough (source the Royal Academy exhibition records), and although he was not known especially as a painter of portraits he was very much a 'local artist' and would no doubt be known to the commissioning authorities in Peterborough. It is also relevant to the discussion to note that the portrait of Daniel Henry Redhead by Pilsbury is stated to be exactly the same size, 102 x 76 cm, as the portraits of Royce and Miller which are listed as having been commissioned directly from the artist. Given the stylistic similarities of all four works (including the present unattributed portrait of Daniel Henry Redhead) and the commissioning history and other evidence it seems highly probable that Pilsbury painted all four of these works.

Osmund Bullock,

There are minor differences, but they do certainly look to be by the same artist. This unattributed one is stated to have been commissioned as a civic portrait like Pilsbury's ones of Royce (1912) and Miller (1914), and (as Grant rightly observes) exactly the same, somewhat non-standard 40 x 30 in. size as them. The other one, attributed to the artist but of unknown origin, is a slightly reduced version (estimated at 35.5 x 25.5 in., about kit-cat), and was most likely painted for the family at the same time.

Pilsbury was an art master at Oundle School (and elsewhere), very close to Peterborough. He is said (Stewart & Cutten) to have exhibited 16 works at the RA 1902-24, and one or other version could well have appeared there if it was painted for Daniel Redhead's second (1905) mayoralty - I don't have ready access to the post-1905 RA exhibitors book, but can look tomorrow unless someone has it ready to hand.

Ah, I've just found out how the second, smaller version joined its big brother at the Town Hall: in his will proved 1927, Redhead left the Borough of Peterborough (inter alia) "a painting of himself as Mayor of the city". See attached.

Not yet conclusive proof, but it is indeed looking very likely that Pilsbury was responsible for both.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Daniel Redhead's civic record was remarkable - he was an Alderman of Peterborough for 52 years, from the city's incorporation in 1874 to the eve of his 90th birthday in 1926. In view of this distinction, it is possible that it is this one that's the copy, commissioned by the Council to join other mayoral portraits at the Town Hall, and later replaced by the family-held original left to them by the sitter.

The 40 x 30 in. size still suggests Pilsbury; but looking carefully at the two paintings side-by-side, there are significant differences in face and head shape - the whole feel is different, too, this man seems much harder, less sympathetic in character. I am beginning to wonder if this is not only a copy, but one by a different hand. Without contemporary reference/evidence it will be hard to be sure - if the Collection knows it was a civic commission, do they have any further information on when that happened? Presumably, too, there would be a record of it in Council minutes, though finding it would be a long job with no-one to do it.

One further reflection: how sure are the Collection that it is the other, smaller one that is by Pilsbury? Is it actually signed or otherwise identified? Could the two portraits have become confused as to artist at some point?

Osmund Bullock,

It was not exhibited at the RA post-1905 - in fact very few of Pilsbury's exhibited works were portraits at all.

Helena Hutchinson,

I wondered if this particular painting was by John Frederick Harrison Dutton?? He was my great grandfather and was particularly known for his paintings of fur. He travelled around great houses, painting commissioned portraits of their occupants, and painted several lord mayors in their robes, notably Chester. He did not die until after the first world war, but was probably in France during the WW1, which would mean it unlikely that he painted the other two mentioned. His war record (presumably) held at Kew might clarify any periods when he was not at war? He was born and lived in or around Chester at this time. I have four paintings in my possession.

Helena Hutchinson,

I should have mentioned also that he exhibited at the royal academy and was the pupil of Herbert Herkomer, an engraver at some point. I believe that there is at least one painting held at the national portrait gallery. His date of death is not known by me, however it is NOT 1909, as mentioned on numerous web sites as he fought in WW1.

Helena, thank you very much for your comments about your great grandfather. There are 8 works on ArtUk listed as by Dutton and he looks to be a very skillful portraitist. He often signs his work quite prominently.
In the case of the portrait of Redhead in Peterborough, the connection with the artist Harry Pillsbury (or, in the case of one, a copy of Pillsbury) seems conclusive.
But what you say about the dates of Dutton's death certainly should be incorporated into ArtUK. Are you sure there is no death date for him in family records? I imagine it can be worked out from death registers, etc. The incorrect date arose because some sources give dates as "fl.", i.e. flourished, which means that so far there are only dated works by a particular artist within those dates, so they show his working dates, rather than life dates.

Richard Adams,

WW1 military records on are currently (until 4/7/16) free to access. They show that John Fred[sic] Harrison Dutton, occupation – Portrait Painter, enlisted in the RAF on 30th August 1918 aged 46 and was employed as photographer. He was transferred to the Reserve on 24th Feb 1919 and discharged on 30th ??? 1920. It gives the units he served in but not where they were located.
A quick check through the BMD indexes shows a John F H Dutton died in St Pancras aged 59 in the quarter ending Sep 1930

Osmund Bullock,

Although there seems to be no strong stylistic reason why J F Harrison Dutton could not have painted one or other of the Redhead portraits, Helena, there are circumstantial reasons why it's less likely. As Barbara mentions, your gt-grandfather habitually - perhaps always - signed his work. Of the seven firmly attributed to him on ArtUK, all are precisely dated, suggesting it may well be on the painting - and four of them have prominent signatures actually visible in the image. In addition I have found eight other examples of his work online, and *all* are signed (and dated between 1896 and 1918).

The (40x30 in) size of the portrait under discussion, as Grant pointed out, exactly matches the two Pilsbury works also commissioned as civic portraits by Peterborough; and three other smaller works by him found online measure close to half this size in both directions (20x16 in). Dutton's sizes are much more variable, but none seems to be the same - most are in fact a lot bigger. This must make Pilsbury still the favourite. Re a signature, the Royce portrait is certainly signed (bottom rt - see attachment 1)...and it looks like there might perhaps be something inscribed on our painting in the same sort of area (on the square-shaped pale patch of hanging robe - see attachment 2). Is there any chance someone at the Collection could have a proper look? A higher-resolution version of the ArtUK image might also help, though much of it seems obscured by crackelure and/or a pale bloom to the varnish.

As to the other, smaller portrait of Redhead bequested by the sitter to the Council in 1927, I now see that there *is* a signature, probably Pilsbury's, mid-left on the same level as the mayoral chain (see attachment 3). So my conjecture of 3 weeks ago is now irrelevant - both are probably by him.

Osmund Bullock,

You beat me to it, Richard! John F H Dutton indeed enlisted at the end of WWI, but aged 46 and under 5' tall he was unlikely to be asked to fight as such (graded B1, later B2). I think the discharge date is 30/4/1920. The 1930 Q3 St Pancras death is probably him, though his birth index record (1872 Q2) and the DOB given in the RAF Record (14/4/1872) would make him 58, not 59. To be certain, Helena, you'd have to order a death certificate - there were others around called John F H Dutton, and I can so far find no record of him living in London.

I have quite a lot more about him, including his parentage, art training, wife & family, and other portrait commissions (the last I can find was in 1924); but since it now seems fairly certain he did not paint this portrait, this is no longer the place for it. If another discussion is started around one of his attributed ArtUK portraits, I will post more.

Helena Hutchinson,

Hello everyone who was kind enough to respond to my comments.
As family information has it JF Harrison-Dutton died in France and is buried in a paupers grave (unknown whereabouts).
I believe he fought, or was present at the front in France, I have somewhere in my mountains of information, a photograph of him with other soldiers at or behind the trenches. He was severely psychologically damaged by what he experienced hence removing himself from his family and moving to France where he took severely to drink and died penniless. I have two small painting which are alleged to be painted in France, but my Grandmother was always reluctant to give details and I was too young to ask the correct questions.

The above information is very interesting. I think it would now be helpful to focus on resolving the specific question posed in this discussion. I have compared online the two paintings of Daniel Henry Redhead, one time Mayor Peterborough, one by Harry Clifford Pilsbury and the other listed as 'unknown artist'. These two paintings bear remarkable similarities and in particular the way in which the sitter's hands are painted is almost identical. The size of the unattributed painting is one used by Pilsbury on other occasions. In my mind the paintings are both by Pilsbury but being cautious I think it would be prudent to amend the artist from 'unknown artist' to 'attributed to Harry Clifford Pilsbury'. Unless any contributor has any disagreement with this approach I think a recommendation should be made to the Collection on this basis.

Osmund Bullock,

I concur, Grant.

[A brief aside to Helena re J F Harrison Dutton. In the light of what you say, I looked again at the 1924 "portrait commission" I mentioned earlier (of the Commodore of the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club, Sir Gerald Fowler Burton). Although the Western Morning News announced its unveiling at the club on 12 August 1924, it could perfectly well have been painted before the War, and have been presented to the club by its owner at a much later date.]

Jade King,

The collection has been contacted about this recommendation.